Robin Hood Unplugged
In 2011, Robin Hood launched the “Robin Hood Unplugged" series – a string of intimate gatherings that offer a deep dive into the poverty fighting work of Robin Hood. Speakers include best-in-class philanthropic leaders, executive directors from Robin Hood funded programs and Robin Hood staff members.
The goal of the series is to give Robin Hood supporters an inside look at poverty in New York City and the role that Robin Hood has played in alleviating poverty over the past two decades. We discuss what we’ve learned over the years, what we’ve accomplished and where we hope to go in the future. Each gathering in the series tackles a specific topic and fosters an atmosphere that promotes questions and thoughtful discussions.
UPCOMING COMING EVENTS:
Tuesday, June 4: A conversation with Robin Hood Chief Program Officer, Michael Weinstein, to learn more about how we invest your contributions and how you can apply similar strategies to your own charitable giving.
Past Topics Include:
Metrics, originally called “Robin Hood 2.0”
Early Childhood: Why early interventions matter
Education: What makes a great school?
Survival: Making sense of the Census
PAST Unplugged RECAPS:
Meeting the Challenges of Sandy
THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2013
Hurricane Sandy impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of our neighbors across the tri-state area. On March 14, Robin Hood Hosted an Unplugged Breakfast featuring Robin Hood Board Member and Relief Committee Chair Victoria Bjorklund and Robin Hood’s Managing Director the Relief Fund, Emary Aronson, to discuss how we activated the Sandy Relief Fund and our methodology for distributing more than $50 million in 100 days.
The story of Robin Hood’s Relief Fund dates back to 2001 when a Relief Fund was established to find a way to help not only our neighbors dealing with poverty, but all the victims of 9/11. Though the leadership of Victoria and Emary, Robin Hood collected over $65 million, which we distributed to organizations providing emergency assistance and support, job training and mental health services for survivors and the families of 9/11 victims.
Within days following Hurricane Sandy Robin Hood reactivated the Relief Fund and, once again, Victoria and Emary stepped up to lead the way. Robin Hood had “boots on the ground” from the very beginning and a team in place to distribute the funds raised in a fast, yet efficient manner. The Relief committee met weekly to discuss and approve grants for 15 weeks straight. The result was the distribution of over $50 million in 100 days, and at the time of the Unplugged, Robin Hood had grated out more than $63 million across New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.
During the Unplugged breakfast, Emary and Victoria detailed the many challenges that this storm presented, and will continue to present for years to come. The size of the destruction was enormous. After Katrina/Rita the impacted area was the size of England, whereas the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy was the size of Western Europe. So although Robin Hood’s supporters showed an incredible amount of generosity, we knew from the beginning that our $56 million would only go so far. This presented us with the challenge of fairness in distribution. We relied on our 25 years of grant making experience and our knowledge of the area and the non-profit community to help those most in need. Another challenge was simply getting information. In the first few weeks, obtaining information about families and individuals in need of help proved to be very difficult. Robin Hood relied on trusted partners to help determine which areas were in need of support and how best to get it to them. And thirdly, not knowing what the government’s response was going to be added to the challenges of our own grant making. We didn’t want to duplicate efforts or direct our funding to areas that would be helped by government dollars.
As we near the date when 100% of the dollars that were generously donated prior to and as a result of the 12.12.12 Concert are fully allocated, everyone at Robin Hood recognizes that the recovery efforts are long from over. We will continue to support the more than 400 community partners that have received Relief funds and know that New York City and its surrounding neighbors will rise up again.
Early Childhood Building Blocks
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2012
SPEAKER: Dr. Doug Clements of the University of Denver, designer of the “Building Blocks” curriculum.
At our most recent Unplugged Session, Robin Hood revealed the first intervention to be tested through our newly established Early Childhood Initiative: a pre-K curriculum with a strong focus on math.
Research has shown that early math skills predict achievement in both reading and math. Further, the analysis demonstrates that deficits in math are linked to lower likelihood of school success: children with persistently low math skills across the ages of 6, 8, and 10 are more than 10 percentage points less likely to graduate from high school and nearly 30 percentage points less likely to attend college than children who do not have low math skills at any time during this period of childhood.
Recognizing that the acquisition of early math skills may be key to sustained achievement, Robin Hood and its research partner, MDRC, will use the math-focused curriculum Building Blocks, developed by Dr. Doug Clements, to test two things: first, whether we can successfully raise early math skills in pre-kindergarten and second, whether these skills will have later impacts on the children’s academic outcomes. The intervention will combine the curriculum with intensive teacher training and coaching facilitated by Bank Street College of Education. Working with Dr. Clements’ approach to teaching early mathematics, we hope to determine if a causal relationship does indeed exist between early math skills and later achievement, and whether it can be produced at scale in the reality of an urban pre-school setting.
Dr. Clements and the MDRC team were on hand to explain the Building Blocks curriculum and outline how implementation of this large scale longitudinal research study will play out over the next few years. But we must remember this is just one step in a longer term study. At full scale, the study will reach 2,000 children whom we will follow and assess through their third grade year, longer than most current early childhood research studies. We chose third grade because other research has shown that one can accurately predict later academic achievement from third grade performance.
In coming years, the Early Childhood Initiative expects to identify a range of specific, replicable early childhood interventions with the potential for producing lasting gains if implemented at scale in New York City. This is the first time that Robin Hood’s resources have been invested in research rather than providing direct services to poor New Yorkers. As such, the institute marks a significant departure from Robin Hood’s business as usual, but the potential return warrants this new approach. If successful, the study will be groundbreaking. By proving what works and what doesn’t in partnership with MDRC, a nationally respected and deeply experienced evaluator of social programs, Robin Hood will arm public and private funders alike with the evidence they need to make smart decisions. In doing so, Robin Hood and our donors will help future generations of children avoid lives in poverty.
Treating Students in Crisis
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2012
SPEAKER: Dr. Charles Soulé, Senior Psychologist at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian
During the most recent Unplugged, our audience learned the stunning fact that it has been estimated that as many as 21% of American children aged 9-17 suffer from mental health disorders. Dr. Soulé sees children every day that are suffering from ADHD, PTSD and childhood anxiety. Many of these young children are living in homes where domestic violence and substance abuse occur. Others have experienced a traumatic parental separation, many times as a result of incarceration. When these factors combine with overcrowded, loud and chaotic school environments and the result is often disruptive students, who experience an inability to focus which results in poor academic achievement.
Dr. Soulé explained that, traditionally, if a student became uncontrollable in class, there was only one way to address the problem: call 911. For younger children, an ambulance would be dispatched and the child removed by stretcher. For high-school-aged students, the police respond, and the teen is removed from the school in handcuffs.
Thankfully, there is another way. Dr. Soulé and the team at Children’s Hospital operate full mental health clinics that receive funding from Robin Hood in 10 elementary schools in Washington Heights and Harlem. Students get the care they need without ever leaving their school building. As a result students stay in school and on track for academic advancement. These programs have reduced the percentage of students who need to repeat grades, lowered disruptive behaviors and improved the test scores of students in treatment.
Thanks to Robin Hood donors Dr. Soulé and his team have created school-based mental health programs that are working to remove one of the many barriers that face young New Yorkers living in poverty.
Becoming a Better Board Member
TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012
Robin Hood’s support doesn’t end once we’ve made a grant to a poverty fighting program. Experience has shown us that a committed board is one of the most influential elements in determining how successful an organization can be. Board placement is a part of our Management Assistance services where we identify and place talented individuals who are interested in dedicating their time and skills to a nonprofit. Robin Hood has placed over 400 board members at poverty-fighting nonprofits to date.
This Unplugged breakfast was a panel discussion with Victoria B. Bjorklund Partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Robin Hood Board member, Cecily M. Carson President of the Carson Family Charitable Trust and Robin Hood Leadership Council and Advisory Board member and Richard Barth CEO and President of the KIPP Foundation.
Victoria set the stage for the morning by sharing an overview of the responsibilities and legal duties of not-for-profit board members, as well as highlighting some recent cases demonstrating common challenges.
Cecily and Victoria shared lessons learned and best practices from their years of board service, while Richard offered his perspective as a nonprofit executive working with his board, specifically the relationship between board chair and executive director. The panel addressed questions raised by the attendees on a wide range of governance related topics including fundraising, orienting new board members, fiduciary responsibility, committee work and board recruitment.
All three of our panelists agreed that board service requires a commitment of financial support, time and energy. But the return on investment is the direct impact you can have on one of Robin Hood’s many innovative grantees.
If you are interested in learning more about Robin Hood’s board placement program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are Great Teachers Born or Are They Made?
SPEAKER: Norman Atkins, founder of Uncommon Charter Schools and president and co-founder of the Relay Graduate School of Education, the first independent graduate school of education to be newly credentialed in New York in more than 80 years.
Research suggests that the quality of a teacher can make or break a student’s future chances of success. If an average student is exposed to three not-so-great teachers in a row, their performance levels decrease — making it that much more unlikely that they will graduate from high school and essentially eliminating their chances of going to college. However, if a student has three great teachers in a row, their academic performance dramatically increases. Norman described this as a “a relay of great teachers.”
CHART: Sanders, W. and Rivers, J. (1996) Cumulative and residual effects of teachers on future student academic achievement. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Value-Added Research and Assessment Center.
What poverty fighters can learn from Dunkin Donuts
Thursday, March 15, 2012
SPEAKER: Michael Weinstein, Chief Program Officer and economist.
Michael provided an in depth overview of Single Stop – a Robin Hood funded program that reduces poverty by connecting people to public benefits, free legal counsel, financial assistance and access to a social worker all in one location.
Michael formed the idea for Single Stop in the 1970's after witnessing members of his community falling prey to insurance scams. He started a program in the basement of a neighborhood church in Philadelphia that served as a place for community members to receive financial, insurance and tax advice. It has since grown into a national organization with more than 80 sites in New York City as well as locations in 7 other states. Last year alone, Single Stop helped more than 120,000 low-income New Yorkers receive roughly $250 million in benefits to help them stabilize their financial, educational, vocational and health prospects in the hopes of eventually leaving poverty behind.