Robin Hacke, our Executive Director, built CCI on a career of finance and innovation, and over seven years of work to help disinvested communities across the US attract and deploy investment to achieve their priorities. Prior to officially launching the Center, Robin was a Senior Fellow at the Kresge Foundation where she incubated our work. When she has a spare moment in the midst of propelling CCI forward, Robin can be found folk dancing or following the voyages of 15th century Venetians to countries with great food and architecture.
Hi Robin! How would you describe your role at the Center?
I am pulling together an outstanding team and giving them what they need to be successful. I make sure that the Center is positioned in the field to fill the gaps and meet the potential that we see in the community investment system.
What about the Center’s work most excites you right now?
The Center’s work is the fulfillment of a dream for me. This is work that I’ve been incubating for the last few years. The opportunity to take our work to communities across the country – to different kinds of institutions, from health systems to utilities to foundations – and help them accelerate their role in the community investment system is an exciting prospect.
What were you working on before you set up the Center?
I was a Senior Fellow at the Kresge Foundation. I was incubating this work, which grew out of an experience that I had managing a blended capital fund and trying to place that money in disinvested cities across the United States. I realized that the supply of capital, while limited and hard to access, was only a part of the problem, and that organizing demand for capital was actually as much of a barrier as finding supply. This has been the heart of my work for the last few years.
How did your past experiences lead you to this work?
I studied government, and my dream at the time was to be mayor of Baltimore. I became a fundraiser for two years between college and business school because I thought that in order to run for elected office, it was really important to understand fundraising. I went for an MBA at Harvard Business School because I thought that running a city was more about knowing how to manage things than it was about law - many people who go into politics are lawyers, and I was interested in bringing more of a management perspective.
I then spent a couple of years in public finance on Wall Street doing housing finance. I was trying to figure out how to get mortgages for first time home buyers and for other people who were having trouble entering into the housing market. I then took a bit of a left turn and moved to Israel for 17 years. In those 17 years, I became part of building the high-tech industry in Israel. It was a very exciting time there, and I ultimately found my way from high-tech to strategy consulting to venture capital.
When I moved back to the States in 2003, I decided that it was time to get back to things that were in the public interest. I had the opportunity to start working on community investment, which was all about cities, which was my passion in the first place.
Is there anything from your time in Israel that comes up in unexpected or interesting ways?
The whole of Israel is kind of an entrepreneurial vision. Interestingly, the motto of the Zionists was “if you will it, it is no dream.” It’s interesting to me, as somebody who has created organizations through my career, that if you can articulate a vision that’s compelling, there really is much less standing in the way than people sometimes fear.
When you’re not at work, you …
I have been a folk dancer since I was about 11. I do classic Israeli dancing once a month, and I also work out pretty regularly.
I love to travel. I just came back in September from a trip to Crete, and last year I was in Sardinia. My passion is to follow the Venetians around from the 15th century; they left a legacy of good food and a lot of good architecture in their wake.
What’s one of the top places where you’ve traveled?
In the United States, I love Detroit. I think it’s an amazing city, it’s a comeback story. The people there are passionate about their place, which I really appreciate.
People would be surprised to know…
I don’t think a lot of people know that I have done contra dancing. I am a meditator and have been in a search for serenity for some time. I’m a big fan of the Tara Brach podcasts.
What are some of your favorite books?
I had a big period of FDR fandom. There’s a wonderful book by Doris Kearns Goodwin called No Ordinary Time which was about the domestic front in the White House under Franklin Roosevelt. There’s another history book I loved called Undaunted Courage which is about the Lewis and Clark expedition. For our office holiday book exchange, I gave The Other Wes Moore, which is about two guys, both named Wes Moore, both African American, who grew up in Baltimore. They found themselves in quite different circumstances; one ended up in prison for murder, and one became a Rhodes Scholar. It’s about the life circumstances that caused those paths to diverge so dramatically. That’s a great book.
What is your media diet?
I’ve been reading The New Yorker since I was in high school - I’m quite a loyal New Yorker fan. I’m an NPR listener. I love Seth Meyers and “A Closer Look;” I think he’s very funny, and right now the only way to listen to the news is with a smile on. I started listening to CBS News Interactive while I work out in the morning because you can get that no matter what time zone you’re in, and the Tara Brach podcasts are a regular feature.