Robin Hood’s new Chief Executive Officer, Wes Moore, presented a compelling and personal connection to the mission at Monday night’s Unplugged event on the future of philanthropy, before an audience of over 100 members of Robin Hood’s diverse community.

The discussion was moderated by Robin Hood’s own Brendon Mason, a member of the development team, who relished the chance to grill his new boss.

“I did speak with HR before I came up here,” Mason quipped. “They told me no-holds-barred, I get to ask whatever I want, and Wes can’t fire me for asking tough questions.”

Mason turned the tables on his new CEO from the start, asking him the question that Moore had asked Mason his first day: “What is your Robin Hood story?”

Moore’s connection to Robin Hood runs deep, long before his first formal affiliation to the organization when as an Afghanistan veteran and a former paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, he was asked to serve on Robin Hood’s veteran advisory board.

“It is not lost on me that the neighborhood that I came up in was also one of the first neighborhoods that Robin Hood invested in,” Moore said. As a child, Moore moved from Baltimore to Gun Hill Road in the Bronx after his father died when he was four years old.

“I consider it a kind of full circle opportunity to be able to come work with an organization that I really believe in my heart saw something in me before I was able to see it in myself.”

In his second week on the job, Moore published an op-ed in TIME about the fight against poverty, charging that “the war on poverty has become a war on the poor.”

At Monday’s Unplugged, he built on that point, and described how inconsistent policies and derisive rhetoric have harmed the 1.8 million New Yorkers living in poverty.

“If we’re going to take on poverty, then in the way we act, in the way we allocate resources, in the way we speak about it, we’ve got to make sure that we are consistent with an ability and an intention to win,” Moore said on Monday. “Because stalemate is not what we do. Fighting wars to prove a point is not what we do.”

Part of that, Moore explained, involves augmenting Robin Hood’s impactful programs with experience-driven commentary on public policy.

Moore described children who go to failing schools and learn their expectations just by walking through the front door every day.

He described families living in poverty who face new hurdles every time they make progress. He spoke of his visit to community partners on Rikers Island, New York City’s largest prison, where 10,000 people are incarcerated a night, the bulk of whom have not yet been convicted of a crime, unable to afford bail.

“As we walked through Rikers Island, that is one of the many, many proud moments I’ve had … being the CEO of Robin Hood. That was one of the proudest moments, when you get the chance to see your work on the ground, right, when you get a chance to see how this is playing out,” Moore said. “And it’s also one of the moments where I felt weakest. Because it was also one of those moments that I realized that the work that we do in philanthropy alone is not going to fix what I saw there.”

He said people living in poverty in New York City need to know that Robin Hood nation stands with them in every way.

“You have people who are right now looking around and trying to identify ‘who is talking for me? Who is standing for me?’ I think when we talk about advocacy and we talk about policy, whether it be in education or housing or transportation or health, I think that we want to be very clear that we stand with you. Your success fundamentally matters and determines ours. And I think that we want to be unabashed about it,” Moore said “I never want anyone to forget about why we do this work,” Moore added.

“I never want anyone to forget about the fact that there are community organizations and community partners and there are people every day who walk into this building, they’re relying on us to do this job, they’re relying on us to get it right, they’re relying on all of you.”

Thank you!

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