Ai-Jen Poo

Bringing hidden labor to light

Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, on why and how we need to value “the work that makes all other work possible.”

More in her excerpt From Generosity to Justice with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker:

DARREN: Over the past ten years, what have you learned that has most profoundly impacted you, that you didn’t know when you started this work? And how can other people apply what you’ve learned to their work?

AI-JEN: There is something important to be learned in every single room. And one of the great gifts of privilege has been the ability to be in meetings with all kinds of people: advertisers, creatives, entertainers, people in business and tech and the world of invest- ment capital. In every single room that I’m in, I learn something profound that is related or relatable to what we’re doing. And at the level of trying to retool and redesign society for equity, each of those fields of vision offers a vital perspective, even if you’ll never fully understand that perspective just by going to a few meetings. Ultimately, the more you know about what you don’t know, the better chance you have of designing an effective strategy.

And in every single one of those rooms, there are people who share our vision of equity and opportunity. I’ve been surprised and encouraged by how many bridges we’ve been able to build and how many people actually do care about what happens to domestic workers and what happens to the future of the care workforce. It’s our shared humanity. that’s a common starting point for how we collaborate and work together.

Finally, I’ve learned to center people who have the most at stake in some of the policies and systems and structures that we’re trying to shape—people like the members we represent, the women who do this work every day—and to bring their experiences, their perspectives, their hopes, and their dreams into as many spaces as possible. It’s beneficial cial for everyone. It’s not just about it being the right thing to do, but actually the strategies get better. The conversation gets grounded in reality. And the solutions are much more impactful.

We call that “building power from the margins until the margins disappear.” Not because we want to reinforce this margin-centered dynamic—which I often fear we sometimes do in our discourse when we talk so much about the marginalized. But we’re bringing in the voices of the marginalized in such a way that it totally changes the dynamics until the margins no longer exist—until we’re all at the same table, actually working on the same solutions.

Continue Reading: Purchase From Generosity to Justice

“Charity is like a Band-Aid. It’s getting you the resources to address an injury, but not actually getting at the reason for the injuries to begin with.”

Ai-jen Poo


The Privilege of Perspective

President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Elizabeth Alexander, discusses why foundations need to empower communities.


Joyful justice

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker talks with Ai-jen Poo on why we need to value “the work that makes all other work possible.”


Generosity to Justice

Purchase your copy of A New Gospel of Wealth: From Generosity to Justice