Story #39

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Synergy in Fighting Poverty

Robin Hood and BronxWorks

The Robin Hood Foundation and BronxWorks have very similar missions: to fight poverty in the poorest areas of New York City, notably the South Bronx, which is consistently among the poorest regions in the country.  “The comprehensive approach BronxWorks takes attacks poverty at its core and across multiple demographics and it has proven to be a leader in lifting households out of poverty,” says Michael Weinstein, Chief Program Officer at Robin Hood.

Early childhood education has been a key area of collaboration since 2005.  BronxWorks Executive Director Carolyn McLaughlin emphasizes that pre-kindergarten education “provides children growing up in poverty with the cognitive and social skills proven to promote success later in life.”  (Read about Abubacar’s progress at the BronxWorks Early Childhood Learning Center in Story #29.)  Weinstein notes that “programs like this help poor children gain more even footing with their wealthier peers, and studies show that children who participate in these programs are much more likely to graduate from high school, avoid the criminal justice system, and escape a life of poverty.”  Weinstein elaborates: “BronxWorks offers significant advantages over other preschool programs.  The program offers year-round, full-day preschool for children whose families are eligible for child care subsidies, and offers scholarships (supported by Robin Hood) for those that don’t.”

The poverty-fighting collaboration extends to young adults seeking to complete their high school education and move on to college and careers.  Robin Hood began funding the EXCEL program in 2006, which allowed BronxWorks to reach a greatly in-need population: out-of-school youth.  EXCEL now extends to hundreds of youth yearly, helping them attain their GED, find meaningful employment, and enter and succeed in college.  (Read Story #21 about Stephanie’s transformative experience.)  “Through continual analysis of its data, BronxWorks fine-tunes its programs to help as many young people as possible find success, which will provide dividends for years to come,” notes Weinstein.

Robin Hood has also been essential in partnering to serve walk-in clients at Single Stop sites since 2004, which allows BronxWorks to act as a go-to resource for Bronxites who need support in accessing basic benefits and services (read Story #5 about 102-year-old Natividad).  The collaboration has extended to preventing eviction as well, through the HomeBase program serving four community districts with residents most at-risk for homelessness in New York City.

“We’ve been able to significantly improve key programs as a result of feedback from Robin Hood and their emphasis on outcomes and performance,” says Development Director Ken Small.  Robin Hood staff ask thoughtful, constructive questions and their rigorous focus on metrics helps BronxWorks develop strong anti-poverty programs.  “By pushing us with tough questions, Robin Hood requires us to have the discipline to develop effective programs that achieve real outcomes,” says McLaughlin, and the results are undeniable.

Beyond the critical analysis of programs and funding, Robin Hood has offered a variety of technical assistance and has helped place several board members on the BronxWorks board of directors.  In addition, the capital funding provided for the BronxWorks administration office completed in 2009, was “very important in our development as an organization, allowing us to bring our previously disparate departments into a single place, which was crucial for improving our communications and efficiency,” says McLaughlin.

Robin Hood and BronxWorks have worked together to fight poverty in the Bronx for nearly 20 years.  “There’s great synergy in the alignment of our goals and Robin Hood’s goals,” remarks McLaughlin.  This synergy allows BronxWorks and Robin Hood to fulfill the shared mission of alleviating poverty each and every day.

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