PURGING POVERTY IN NYC

For almost 30 years, the Robin Hood Foundation has made a profound impact on our city’s homeless, hungry, and poor.  Now, Wes Moore, a new leader with a new vision,  has taken the helm.

Aired on May 4, 2017 & January 3, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

AS PART OF OUR ONGOING CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE, POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA, WE WANT TO TROE DUGS -- INTRODUCE YOU TO THE ROBINHOOD FOUNDATION WHICH FOR DECADES NOW HAS LED THE FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY IN NEW YORK HAS APPOINTED WESS MOORE AS ITS NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE.

THE AUTHOR, COMBAT VETERAN AND ENTREPRENEUR RAISED NEAR GUN HILL ROAD IN BRONX SUCCEEDS DAVID SALZMAN AFTER 29 YEARS OF RUNNING THE NONPROFIT.

LAST YEAR THE FOUNDATION DISTRIBUTED $130 MILLION TO ORGANIZATIONS IN NEW YORK WHICH WERE FOCUSED ON ELIMINATING POVERTY.

WESS MOORE TAKES THE HELM FULL TIME THIS SUMMER.

BEFORE HE DOES WE ARE PLEASED TO HAVE HIM HERE WITH US AT 'METROFOCUS.'

WESS, GOOD TO SEE YOU.

THANK YOU.

I'M HONORED TO BE HERE.

LET ME ASK YOU, BEFORE WE GET INVOLVED IN YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU'RE LOOKING AT THIS, JUST TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE FOR US ABOUT THE ROBINHOOD FOUNDATION.

EXPLAIN WHAT IT DOES AND HOW IT DOES IT.

THE ROBINHOOD FOUNDATION WAS CREATED ABOUT 29 YEARS AGO BY A GENTLEMAN NAME PAUL JONES.

HE SAW WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS GOING TO BE ANOTHER GREAT RECESSION.

AND IMMEDIATELY HIS THOUGHT WAS, YOU KNOW, FORGET ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FOLKS WHO ARE WORKING IN FINANCE.

THERE ARE A WHOLE LOT OF POOR PEOPLE WHO ARE ABOUT TO GET HIT REALLY HARD AND HE SAID, WE HAVE TO CREATE FOUNDATIONS AND SUPPORTS FOR THE LEAST AMONGST US, THE ONES WHO, AS IS OFTEN SAID, WHEN SOME PEOPLE CATCH A COLD, SOME PEOPLE CATCH PNEUMONIA, HE'S WORRIED ABOUT THOSE GETTING READY TO CATCH PNEUMONIA, THE POOR.

AND THEY STARTED A FOUNDATION WHERE THEY SAID, OKAY, INITIALLY WE'RE MAKING INITIAL GRANTS AND LOOKING AT EVERYTHING FROM HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, EDUCATION, ET CETERA, WHERE NOW ROBINHOOD IS 29 YEARS OLD, HAS PUT OVER 2 1/2 BILLION DOLLAR INTO THE FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY, WAS LED BY A DEAR FRIEND AND A GREAT, GREAT SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR, GENTLEMAN NAMED DAVID SALZMAN WHO SERVED AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT THAT TIME.

AND ROBINHOOD HAS SYSTEMATICALLY BEEN DATA DRIVEN BUT ALSO HEART LED.

THE DATA IS IMPORTANT, RIGHT.

BECAUSE WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND BENCHMARKS AND WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WORKS.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME WE CAN NEVER FORGET ABOUT THE HUMANITY OF THIS WORK.

WE CAN NEVER FORGET ABOUT THE FACT OF WHO IT IS THAT WE ARE SERVING AND WHO IT IS THAT WE WILL UNABASHEDLY STAND FOR, PARTICULARLY IN TIMES WHEN WE KNOW THAT THEY ARE AT THEIR MOST VULNERABLE.

I THINK ONE OF THE MORE IMPRESSIVE -- AND THERE ARE A LOT OF IMPRESSIVE THINGS ABOUT THE ROBINHOOD FOUNDATION, YOU MENTIONED $2.5 BILLION.

EVERY DOLLAR GOES --

ROBINHOOD IS A VERY UNIQUE ORGANIZATION IN THAT WAY WHERE BASICALLY THE BOARD OF ROBINHOOD SAYS WE'RE TAKING CARE OF ALL THE OPERATIONAL EXPENSES.

SO, EVERY DOLLAR THAT'S GIVEN TO ROBINHOOD IS THEN GOING OUT INTO THE FIELD.

AND THE AVERAGE DONATION TO ROBINHOOD IS $133.

THAT WAS REALLY INTERESTING.

360,000 DONORS.

SO, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WHO WERE SAYING, LISTEN, I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO GIVE WHAT I CAN.

I WAS TALKING WITH A FRIEND OF MINE FROM BALTIMORE, A GUY WHO HAS SPENT MUCH OF HIS LIFE INVOLVED IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, BUT EVENTUALLY GOT OUT AND BECAME AN ENTREPRENEUR BECAUSE NO ONE WOULD HIRE HIM AND HAS BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR, NOW RUNS THREE DIFFERENT BARBER SHOPS IN BALTIMORE.

GIVES KIDS FREE HAIR CUTS WHEN THEY BRING BOOKS IN.

I GOT A TEXT MESSAGE FROM HIM.

THIS MORNING SAYING, MY MAN, I'M GETTING READY TO MAKE MY $133 DONATION TO ROBINHOOD.

THAT'S GREAT.

THAT'S WHAT ROBINHOOD IS ABOUT.

WE ARE ABOUT BUILDING AN ARMY OF POVERTY FIGHTERS.

LET ME TALK ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND.

I THINK WHEN YOU LOOK FOR LEADERSHIP, WE ARE THE PRODUCTS OF WHAT OUR EXPERIENCES HAVE BEEN.

THAT'S RIGHT.

I THINK YOU HAVE FASCINATING EXPERIENCES.

TELL ME ABOUT THAT.

ONE OF THE REASONS WHY I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT ROBINHOOD IS THIS IS A VERY PERSONAL MISSION TO ME.

YOU KNOW, THE IDEA OF WHAT IT'S LIKE TO COME UP IN A PLACE THAT HAS BEEN CHRONICALLY NEGLECTED, AND WORST OF ALL, TO KNOW IT, TO KNOW THAT WE LIVE IN AN AREA THAT HONESTLY IS NOT BEING THOUGHT ABOUT BY MANY OTHER PEOPLE.

I LIVED IN THOSE AREAS.

I SAW MY MOM WORKING THREE PART-TIME JOBS AND NOT GETTING HER FIRST FULL-TIME JOB UNTIL I WAS ABOUT 14 YEARS OLD.

I KNOW THAT REALITY.

AND I THINK KIND OF THE JUXTAPOSITION THEN OF ME KIND OF WALKING INTO THIS SEAT OF ROBINHOOD COMING FROM A COMMUNITY ROBINHOOD HELPED TO FUND -- HELPED TO FUND

REALLY.

LIKE 15 YEARS AGO, THE EVANDER NEIGHBORHOOD.

TALK ABOUT CLOSING A CIRCLE.

TALK ABOUT CLOSING A CIRCLE.

FOR ME THIS BECOMES A PERSONAL MISSION KNOWING THAT I BENEFITED FROM THE GENEROSITY OF OTHERS.

I KNOW I BENEFITED FROM MENTORS AND PEOPLE WHO SAW SOMETHING IN ME BEFORE I WAS READY TO SEE IT IN MYSELF.

BUT I ALSO KNOW THIS.

WE ARE NEVER GOING TO CHERRY PICK OUR WAY TO FIXING STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS.

WE HAVE TO ACTUALLY ADDRESS STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS AS WELL SO, THEN, WHEN WE'RE WATCHING PEOPLE ADVANCE AND WE'RE WATCHING FAMILIES WHO ARE THEN GOING TO BE ECONOMICALLY MOBILE, THAT THAT MOBILITY IS NOT BECAUSE WE CHERRY PICKED, BUT THAT MOBILITY IS BECAUSE WE FIXED SOCIAL INEQUITIES.

RIGHT.

I'VE SEEN YOU QUOTED AS SAYING PHILANTHROPY ALONE, AS IMPORTANT AS IT IS IN THIS BATTLE AGAINST POVERTY, PHILANTHROPY ALONE IS NOT GOING TO SOLVE THIS.

YOU TALK ABOUT WE NEED TO BE CONVENERS.

YES.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

I THINK ROBINHOOD HAS AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO PLAY IN TERMS OF THE CAPITAL THAT IT CAN DISTRIBUTE AND ONE THING WE TAKE A GREAT DEAL OF PRIDE IN IS THE FACT THAT WHEN PEOPLE ARE TRUSTING ROBINHOOD WITH THEIR RESOURCE TO MAKE SURE THAT IT'S PUT OUT WISELY AND SMARTLY, THAT WE TAKE THAT SERIOUSLY AND WE FEEL LIKE WE ARE BEST IN CLASS AT THAT.

HOWEVER, PHILANTHROPY ALONE WILL NEVER FIX WHAT POLICIES HAVE CREATED.

THERE ARE POLICIES THAT ARE PUTTING PEOPLE AND KEEPING PEOPLE IN POVERTY EVERY SINGLE DAY.

WHETHER IT'S THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT TRANSPORTATION, THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT HOUSING, THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT EDUCATION, THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES.

SO, I THINK PART OF THE JOB OF ROBINHOOD IS IN ADDITION TO BEING AN INCREDIBLY EFFECTIVE DISTRIBUTOR OF CAPITAL TO MAKE SURE WE'RE HELPING AND SUPPORTING GREAT ORGANIZATIONS LIKE ONES THAT ROBINHOOD HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME, ORGANIZATIONS LIKE KIPP, ORGANIZATIONS LIKE THE ASSOCIATION OF BENEFIT CHILDREN, THE ORGANIZATIONS LIKE THE HARLEM CHILDREN ZONE, I THINK ROBINHOOD ALSO HAS A UNIQUE ROLE TO PLAY IN THE FACT WE CAN BRING OTHER LIKE MINDED ORGANIZATIONS TOGETHER.

WE CAN BRING OTHER PHILANTHROPISTS TOGETHER.

WE CAN BRING GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TOGETHER AND HELP TO THINK ABOUT HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT BUDGETS, HOW WE'RE THINKING ABOUT POLITICAL PRIORITIES, AND WHAT IMPACT IS THAT GOING TO HAVE ON THE POPULATION THAT WE WILL ALWAYS DEFEND AND THAT WE WILL ALWAYS SERVE.

ONE OF THE OTHER INTERESTING THINGS I FOUND IN YOUR BACKGROUND, AS I MENTIONED, AS A COMBAT VETERAN.

WHAT DID YOU BRING BACK WITH YOU FROM THOSE EXPERIENCES THAT YOU THINK HAVE PUSHED YOU IN THE DIRECTION THAT YOU'RE GOING INTO NOW, AND THIS NOTION OF PHILANTHROPY AND FIGHTING POVERTY?

YOU KNOW, IT WAS INTERESTING BECAUSE IT WAS ACTUALLY MY MILITARY EXPERIENCES THAT ACTUALLY GAVE ME MY FIRST DIRECT CONNECTION TO ROBINHOOD BECAUSE WHEN I CAME BACK FROM AFGHANISTAN, I REALLY BECAME AN ADVOCATE FOR VETERANS AND ALSO SPECIFICALLY VETERANS FAMILIES.

BECAUSE I STARTED NOTICING THAT EVERY TIME WE NEEDED ANYTHING WHILE WE WERE OVERSEAS WHEN WE WERE FIGHTING, WE GOT IT.

WE GOT IT INSTANTANEOUSLY.

BUT THEN I HAD SOLDIERS AND PARA TROOPERS COMING BACK HOME AND WAITING NINE MONTHS TO SEE A DOCTOR.

WHERE DID THAT ALL GO, THAT INSTANTANEOUS SORT OF IMMEDIACY.

THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT.

THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN IT DISAPPEARS.

THE IMMEDIACY, THE URGENCY.

I BECAME ACTIVE IN THE VETERANS FIGHT BECAUSE I WAS SAYING, WE MADE A PROMISE TO THESE MEN AND WOMEN.

AND WHEN THESE MEN AND WOMEN DECIDED TO SERVE OUR KWUN TRI, THEY DIDN'T ASK THE COUNTRY TO WAIT.

WHY NOW WHEN THEY COME HOME IS THE COUNTRY ASKING THEM TO WAIT?

ROBINHOOD AND THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DAVID SALZMAN GOT WIND OF A LOT OF THE WORK WE WERE DOING AROUND VETERANS.

ROBINHOOD SAID WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO ATTACK THIS ISSUE OF VETERAN HOMELESSNESS.

HOW COME THEY CAN'T FIND A HOME?

THEY PUT TOGETHER A ADVISORY COUNCIL SAYING WE ARE GOING TO ATTACK THE ISSUE OF VETERAN HOMELESSNESS.

AND INCLUDED ME ON THIS COUNCIL WITH THE COLLECTION OF OTHER PEOPLE, ADMIRAL MULLEN AND A COLLECTION OF OTHER ADVOCATES AS WELL.

AND THROUGH THE WORK OF THAT COUNCIL AND THROUGH THE WORK THAT THEY WERE DOING WITH THE CITY OF NEW YORK, THE STATE OF NEW YORK, OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, ET CETERA, HAVE REALLY CREATED A NATIONAL MODEL ABOUT THE WAY THAT WE ADDRESS VETERAN HOMELESSNESS.

AND THAT'S ONE OF THE EXCITING THINGS I THINK ROBINHOOD ONE OF THE ROLES ROBINHOOD CAN PLAY.

ROBINHOOD HAS A UNIQUE PLACE OF BEING BOTH AN IMPORTER AND AN EXPORTER OF REALLY GOOD IDEAS.

SO, IF IT'S WORKING IN NEW YORK, LET'S BRING IT ELSEWHERE.

AND IF IT'S WORKING SOMEWHERE ELSE, LET'S BRING IT TO NEW YORK.

THAT'S ANOTHER UNIQUE ROLE.

FOR AN ORGANIZATION TO HAVE THAT WILLINGNESS, TO EMBRACE SOMETHING -- OKAY, THIS IS NOT OURS, BUT IT WORKS.

BUT IT WORKS SO WE'RE GOING TO EMBRACE IT AND MAKE IT OURS.

THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT.

IT'S NOT ABOUT OWNERSHIP.

IT'S ABOUT EFFICACY.

WE JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE IF IT'S EFFECTIVE LET'S SPREAD IT OUT.

IT'S A MAGNIFICENT ORGANIZATION AND THEY COULD NOT HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB OF CHOOSING A NEXT LEADER TO FOLLOW IN DAVID'S FOOTSTEPS THAN BRINGING YOU ON, WESS.

WE HOPE YOU'LL COME BACK AND WE CAN TALK MORE.

I WOULD LOVE THAT, I WOULD LOVE THAT.

THANK YOU.

GOOD LUCK TO YOU.

BE WELL.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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