Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Department of Human Services Strategic Plan

Vision: Next 2021-2026 Strategic Planning Overview

Introduction to Human Services

Dane County Department of Human Services provides a range of human services to the citizens of Dane County. The Department operates a nursing home and administers over a dozen separate human service systems, which meet the needs of over 65,000 Dane County citizens annually. The Department’s annual budget in 2020 is about $234 million, of which 61 percent is outside revenue that is primarily made up of state and federal funds.

The Department provides services to some of Dane County’s highest need citizens, who rely on the Department’s services because of disability, poverty, substance abuse, maltreatment, mental health concerns, and frailties due to aging. The Department employs nearly 700 full-time staff, but approximately half of the Department’s budget is used to support contracted services in the community typically provided by private, nonprofit organizations. In 2020, the Department will contract with over 200 organizations in Dane County to provide services to consumers with physical and developmental disabilities, the elderly, children and adults with mental health concerns, homeless families, low-income adults seeking employment, and children and youth with support needs stemming from child maltreatment or juvenile delinquency.

Every five years, the Department develops a strategic plan that guides the Department’s work and priorities over the subsequent five years, and beyond. The five-year strategic initiatives form the foundation for the Department to improve outcomes for those we serve and strengthen the core competencies of the Department. The Department kicked off its strategic planning process for the 2021-2026 period in early 2020. 

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is a systematic process for making decisions to guide an organization towards achieving desired outcomes. A strategic plan should help the organization think systematically about the actions and decisions of individual employees, work units, and divisions to achieve the desired visionary outcomes.

Our strategic planning process should:

  • Result in a vision statement that is aspirational and resonates with employees carrying out the daily work necessary to achieve that vision.
  • Help the Department develop a mission statement that clearly states the purpose of the Department.
  • Identify and develop a plan to respond to the most fundamental internal and external issues facing the Department.
  • Address the question of the purpose of the Department and the competing values that influence the mission and strategies.
  • Rely heavily on the active engagement and involvement of all DCDHS staff, Dane County citizens, past, present, and future program participants, human service nonprofits, and other stakeholders.
  • Require the candid confrontation of critical issues by participants and the willingness to engage in occasionally challenging conversations that cause us to question our assumptions and confront our comfort with the status quo.
  • Result in a strategic plan that has 3-5 strategic priorities and identifies initiatives and tactics to achieve those priorities over the course of the following five years.
  • Guide and inform decision making at all levels of the Department.

Stakeholder Interviews

The Department spoke with representatives from nearly 50 coalitions, organizations, municipalities, and legislative bodies from late June through mid-September. We asked 8 interview questions which included: what their vision was for Dane County, what DCDHS should prioritize in the coming years to achieve that vision, what services were needed that didn't exist, and the quality of their partnership with DCDHS. We received a lot of valuable feedback from the individuals we spoke with and deeply appreciate the time and effort they took to help inform our strategic plan.