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.

Please email if you are interested in attending our Unplugged Conversations.

Previous Unpluggeds:





Beth Kobliner, personal finance commentator and New York Times bestselling author

Whether your child is 3 or 23, this Unplugged conversation will prepare you for the “money talk” and equip you with a guide to passing along financial principles that will prepare your child to better manage their money as well as instill values that have been proven to make people successful throughout their lives.




To be announced

The Poverty Tracker Study, launched in 2012, aims to provide a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be poor in New York City. Join us for an Unplugged where Robin Hood's Chief Program Officer, Michael M. Weinstein, discusses what we've learned about the dynamic nature of poverty after three years of data collection from the study.




Michael M. Weinstein, Chief Program Officer, Robin Hood

The Poverty Tracker Study, launched in 2012, aims to provide a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be poor in New York City. Join us for an Unplugged where Robin Hood's Chief Program Officer, Michael M. Weinstein, discusses what we've learned about the dynamic nature of poverty after three years of data collection from the study.




Dr. Harold Koplewicz, Founding President of the Child Mind Institute
Emary Aronson, Robin Hood Managing Director, Education & Relief Fund, serving as moderator. 

More than 17 million children and teenagers suffer from mental illness or a learning disability in the United States.  Most young people in need of help don’t get identified and, in turn, don’t get treated.

Known internationally for its services for children and adolescents, Child Mind Institute is now pioneering a support program for teachers in the classroom so that they have the tools and skills to educate children with an array of needs.




Dirk Ziff, Founding Chairman, Robin Hood Relief Committee
David Saltzman, Robin Hood Executive Director
Emary Aronson, Robin Hood Managing Director, Education & Relief Fund

Robin Hood’s response to the attacks of 9/11 and how the principal of the Robin Hood Relief Fund—caring for others in need—continues to drive our sense of urgency in the day-to-day fight against poverty.




Dr. Claude Chemtob, Director of the NYC Administration for Children's Services-NYU Children’s Trauma Center;
Dr. Susan Chinitz, Founder of the Bronx Family Court Infant-Toddler Court Project;
Dr. Catherine Monk, Director of Research at Columbia University’s Women’s Program; and
Michael Kirwan, Robin Hood’s Senior Program Officer for Early Childhood, serving as moderator. 

Raising happy and productive children is incredibly challenging. For parents suffering from P.T.S.D. and struggling to make ends meet the job is even tougher. Robin Hood is working with leading mental health experts to provide high-quality treatment to parents needing help. These programs are disrupting patterns of abuse and neglect, making for healthier parents, stronger families and more well-nurtured children. 



Michael Weinstein, Chief Program Officer

Robin Hood partners with more than 200 of the most effective poverty-fighting organizations in New York City. But finding these organizations and measuring their outcomes is no easy task. How do we choose between programs that provide children with quality health care and ones that shelter the homeless or feed the hungry? Much like a financial manager makes investment decisions to maximize profit.



Speaker and Moderator:
Victoria Bjorklund, Of Counsel, 
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Robin Hood Board Member 

Renée Eubanks, Counsel, Dentons and University Settlement Board Member
Dominic Wilson, Partner, Goldman Sachs and Blue Engine Board Member

Read our 5 key steps to building a strong board of directors.

Being a governing board member for a nonprofit organization is an honor as well as a responsibility. Boards get involved in everything from strategic planning to fundraising, and finances to public relations. The return on investment of your time, talent and treasure is the direct impact you will have on one of the city's most effective poverty-fighting groups, and the knowledge that your efforts helped educate a child, place a family in secure housing, or connect someone with gainful employment. 



Fighting poverty in New York City means tackling more than just the basics—housing, hunger and health. New Yorkers living in poverty face a variety of hardships every single day. With your support over the past 26 years, Robin Hood has identified gaps in services and developed targeted interventions to meet the needs of our struggling neighbors. Despite our many successes, we still have much to learn. On Tuesday, December 9, we invite you to go behind the scenes to learn how Robin Hood invests in three distinct program areas at different stages of development: Veterans, Immigration and Obesity.



Speaker: Norman Atkins, Co-Founder and President, Relay Graduate School of Education

We all know that education is the most effective poverty fighting tool. We also know that great teaching matters. If poor children have great teachers for four years in a row, they are likely to enroll in college. If, on the other hand, those children have four ineffective teachers in a row, they are unlikely to graduate from high school. The challenge is: how do we ensure there are more great teachers in our city's classrooms?


TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2014

Speaker: Michael M. Weinstein, Chief Program Officer, Robin Hood 

Robin Hood partners with more than 200 of the most effective poverty-fighting organizations in New York City. But finding these organizations and measuring their outcomes is no easy task. How do we choose between programs that provide children with quality health care and ones that shelter the homeless or feed the hungry? Much like a financial manager makes investment decisions to maximize profit. Join us  to ask Michael these questions and hear much more.



Speaker: Michael M. Weinstein, Chief Program Officer, Robin Hood 

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson launched America’s “War on Poverty.”  Trillions of dollars later, what—if anything—has been accomplished? Join Robin Hood Chief Program Officer Michael M. Weinstein for a conversation about America’s anti-poverty efforts—what’s worked, what hasn’t and where we go from here.

New classrooms

Thursday, march 6, 2014

Speakers: Joel Rose, Co-Founder, New Classrooms Innovation Partners and Mike Bezos, Board Member, New Classrooms Innovation Partners

In the modern world, technology allows for individual experiences in almost everything we do. Based on our past preferences, iTunes recommends artists we might like and our TVs suggest new shows. How do we adapt that same thinking to ensure that students receive personalized instruction to better meet their needs? One smart solution is through the innovative learning model established by New Classrooms Innovation Partners (formerly School of One). By adapting the curriculum to each student through the use of data and technology, New Classrooms has optimized learning.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Poor immigrants in NYC face incredible challenges everyday preventing them from building better lives. Together with the Hon. Robert Katzmann, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Executive Director, Nisha Agarwal, Robin Hood is launching a cutting-edge program, called the Immigrant Justice Corps to significantly expand the availability of legal services for immigrants in NYC.

Education in NYC With Larry Robbins

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Robin Hood Board Member and Founder/CEO of Glenview Capital Management, Larry Robbins speaks with Robin Hood’s Managing Director of Education, Emary Aronson about the similarities between investing in the private sector and investing in education. 


TUESDAY, October 29, 2013

Dr. Anne Murphy, Associate Director of the Center for Babies, Toddlers and Families at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, speaks with Robin Hood's managing director of Early Childhood programs, Deborah McCoy about childhhood trauma and poverty.


Metrics 2.0 with Michael Weinstein 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thanks to the unbelievable generosity of our donors, each year Robin Hood staff invests roughly 100 million dollars into 200 of the best poverty fighting programs around the city. In 2012 alone, we invested $132 million dollars. Every year, these investments result in more than 1 billion dollars of benefits for poor New Yorkers.

Fifteen years ago, Robin Hood’s Chief Program Officer, Michael Weinstein, created a system of metrics, dubbed relentless monetization, to help staff invest our donor’s contributions in the most effective way possible.  During last night’s round table discussion, Michael explained how this system came to be, how it has evolved over time, and where it is helping take Robin Hood as we look to the future. 

Our system of metrics identifies and assigns values to each mission-relevant outcome generated by a grant. For example, school grants boost high school graduation rates and improve the future long-term health of graduates. Then Robin Hood staff use these values to form benefit-cost ratios which assign a dollar figure to the amount of philanthropic good that a grant does per dollar of cost. This allows Robin Hood staff to more accurately compare the impact of two very different programs, say a school to a homeless shelter. Much like a financial manager makes investment decisions to maximize their profits, Robin Hood makes philanthropic investments to maximize the benefits to poor New Yorkers.

Read more about Robin Hood’s system of metrics in Michael’s book, The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving.


Meeting the Challenges of Sandy

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

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

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


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.