Deconstructing Robin Hood

Robin Hood ArrowThis world needs a new Robin Hood.

The Robin Hood you’re familiar with stole from the rich to give to the poor. But really, it sets the wrong precedent: the poor become accustomed to rescue, and the rich become irritated with a maverick whose sole mission is to bridge the wealth gap while waiting for an absent and benevolent king.

Machiavellian economics aside, this is just stupid.

The peasants have more ability than they realize, and in many cases it takes a Robin Hood-type character to shift the paradigm. But, Robin Hood himself falls short of becoming a real hero in failing to bridge the real communication and economic gap. Hood and his band of merry men do little in their activities other than to apply band-aids and irritate the wound, providing little more than hope and brief relief to a struggling population while fostering resentment in another.

What they’re missing is empowerment.

Recently, new not-for-profits (and not-just-for-profits) have begun to address these problems both domestically and abroad. These organizations don’t support impoverished people and groups with handouts, but rather makes strides to shift the paradigm and teach people how to help themselves.

Two favorites are Kiva and the Acumen Fund, both of which take capital and invest it in populations that most financial institutions won’t touch due to perceived risk. The results of their efforts have been staggering and encouraging, and I urge you to learn more about what they’re doing.

There’s also Robin Hood Foundation, which takes aims at causes of poverty, but their branding choice does what they do a little bit of disservice: you don’t want to be Robin Hood. But if not him, who?

What we really need is a new character; or, perhaps, a new character metaphor. Robin Hood just isn’t sufficient or sustainable, nor can this type of change be appropriately epitomized by just one man or woman.

I’m open to suggestions.