Why Back to Normal Isn’t Good Enough for People on the Brink of, or in, Poverty.

Robin Hood
4 min readFeb 18, 2021

Here’s how Robin Hood’s No City Limits conference will move the conversation forward.

For five years, Robin Hood’s annual No City Limits conference has worked to turn conversations into action.

No City Limits gathers leaders in philanthropy, non-profit, government, academia, faith, business, and community to talk about ways to create pathways for economic mobility for people in or on the brink of poverty.

The 2021 conference, taking place virtually February 24 and 25, will as always, include an important demographic in the poverty fight: the people living it.

Register here for the 2021 No City Limits Conference

This year, No City Limits will respond to the urgency of this moment. Before 2020 and the national moment of racial reckoning that caught fire after George Floyd’s death, we already knew there were disparities and broken systems that primarily affected brown and Black people. Racial disparity was easy to drop into talking points and wrap into conversations about the many issues contributing to poverty — but never really looked at head on. As we move forward, race and racism have to be seen as the root causes — and the issue in themselves. Racial disparities are not a symptom; they’re the very disease, and they’re perpetuated because of intentional systems that have been in place for centuries.

We can’t talk about economic mobility without talking about systemic racism. So No City Limits 2021 will tackle it head-on. We will explore how we got here, while also discussing how we dismantle and fix the broken systems — highlighting the ways systemic racism continues to keep people in poverty, and how 2020 merely exacerbated existing inequities.

During the two-day event, you’ll hear from impacted individuals — like Derek Singletary, Co-founder & Co-Executive Director of Unchained, who will provide remarks from prison to speak about ways we can reform a broken criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts communities of color.

We’ll also hear from the Brennan Center on new report findings around the cost of the criminal justice system, such as the fact that Black people with no criminal record earn less than socioeconomically-similar white people with a criminal record.

The event will also feature a member of the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s (NDWA) New York chapter, Jacqui Orie, in conversation with NDWA Executive Director Ai-jen Poo, who will speak to the experiences of true frontline heroes like nannies, house cleaners and home care aids. They’ll discuss the need for policies to keep their colleagues safe and compensated fairly. By late March 2020, more than 90% of domestic workers lost their jobs because of COVID-19. Nearly three quarters of these workers received no compensation when their jobs were cancelled and the majority are moms with kids of their own to care for.

No City Limits will also discuss the need for immediate change. When people talk about “going back to life before 2020,” anyone who touches or has lived in poverty knows that that’s not good enough. We were on the brink of collapse in 2020. From the perspective of racial and economic inequity, 2019 wasn’t good either.

The goal can’t be to go back to how things were. The goal is to move all sectors forward to a place that’s better than good enough. We must work to dismantle the systems and structures that disproportionately keep Black and brown people in poverty.

We can solve these man-made problems — and you’re part of the call to action. It doesn’t matter what sector you work in — if you touch the poverty fight, No City Limits will leave you with the tools, knowledge and partners you need to join this fight. Join us.

As an organization, Robin Hood is dedicated to lifting people measurably and sustainably out of poverty. While we’re all glad that 2020 is in the rearview mirror and the vaccine is on its way, the effects of the pandemic are going to be felt in some communities for many years. We must find new ways to support our long-standing partners in the fight against food insecurity with an eye towards innovation and sustainability. Most importantly, we must serve communities in need with dignity and respect.