More than 34 million people in the United States live below the federal poverty level. Wes Moore is on a mission to change that, and he wants you to join him.
On Tuesday, March 9, Cresset hosted a webinar with Wes, who is CEO of Robin Hood Foundation, New York City’s largest anti-poverty organization.
Wes believes that money alone is not enough to eradicate poverty. Rather, he believes that restoring our cities and lifting families out of poverty requires a multifaceted approach that includes collaboration between the nonprofit sector, the business world, and government.
Below, Wes provides an overview into what he shared during the webinar, including the actions that business leaders, philanthropists, and policymakers can take to make our cities and communities more resilient.
Q. There are so many issues today that require innovative solutions. What advice would you offer to those who want to get involved but are overwhelmed by the problems in the world? Where can they start?
Wes: I would advise them to start where they are. No one is being asked to do everything. But everyone is being asked to do something. You’re likely to get overwhelmed when you try to solve the world’s problems all at once. Instead, if you focus on the area that you can control, the enormity of these challenges will not feel as intimidating.
Q. What are some trends in philanthropy that you are partaking in?
Wes: It is clear in the field that philanthropy alone will not solve poverty. That is why we have created a public policy department at Robin Hood and have expanded our role and influence in the policy space. This shift has enabled us to reshape how government leaders tackle issues of poverty and sustainable economic mobility.
Robin Hood supports hundreds of nonprofits working to end poverty. What traits do you look for in those organizations and their leaders?
Wes: I think one of the most important qualities we look for is on-the-ground connections or proximity. We firmly believe that we need to empower those who are closest to the challenges, because they often have the best solutions. For us, it is critical that we bring community members’ lived expertise into our grantmaking processes.
Q: Can you share some of the most innovative solutions you have seen to ending poverty?
Wes: There are several interesting ideas that come to mind. First, finding ways to help students complete higher education. For example, the ACE (Accelerate, Complete and Engage) program at the City University of New York provides students with a number of services, including tuition waivers to close any gap after need-based financial aid, free unlimited monthly MetroCards to offset commuting expenses, textbook assistance, academic and career advisers, and assistance with securing internships.
Secondly, redesigning job training programs with an emphasis on jobs of the future, which includes ensuring that students of color have a pathway to tech careers.
Lastly, pilot programs that encourage individuals working in home care or housekeeping services to become entrepreneurs.
Q: What is the best way for people to help transform their cities?
Wes: I would encourage people to get involved and engage in their local elections. The individuals who end up becoming your state attorney and district attorney are just as important as the governor or the president.
ABOUT WES MOORE
Bestselling Author, Combat Veteran and CEO of Robin Hood
Wes Moore is the Chief Executive Officer of Robin Hood, one of the largest anti-poverty forces in the nation. He is a bestselling author, a combat veteran, and a social entrepreneur.
Wes’ first book, “The Other Wes Moore,” a perennial New York Times bestseller, captured the nation’s attention on the fine line between success and failure in our communities and in ourselves. That story has been optioned by executive producer Oprah Winfrey and HBO to be made into a movie. He is also the author of the bestselling books “The Work,” “Discovering Wes Moore,” “This Way Home” and the recently released, “Five Days.”
Wes grew up in Baltimore and the Bronx, where he was raised by a single mom. Despite childhood challenges, he graduated Phi Theta Kappa from Valley Forge Military College in 1998 and Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 2001. He earned an MLitt in International Relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 2004. Wes then served as a captain and paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, including a combat deployment to Afghanistan. He later served as a White House Fellow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Before becoming CEO at Robin Hood, Wes was the founder and CEO at BridgeEdU, an education platform based in Baltimore addressing the college completion and job placement crisis by reinventing freshman year for underserved students. BridgeEdU was acquired by Edquity, a Brooklyn-based student financial success and emergency aid firm, in June 2019.
Wes has also worked in finance as an investment banker with Deutsche Bank in London and with Citigroup in New York.
Wes lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children.