Hindsight is 2020

Advancing an economic recovery that is inclusive and just

Hindsight is 2020

January 04, 2021

This content was originally published on December 30 as the Center’s end of year newsletter to our community.

A new normal awaits us in 2021 and while recovery appears to be around the corner, it will take vigilance if it is to be truly inclusive.

At the Center, our mission is to ensure the digital economy works for everyone, everywhere. Our focus on four key areas—financial security, economic development, the future of workers and data science for social impact—proved prescient this year as the pandemic disrupted the flow of capital to small businesses, investments in underserved communities and the nature of work.

Our work supports Mastercard’s commitments to financial inclusion and racial equity. In April, after meeting our initial goal of bringing 500 million people into the formal economy by 2020, the company pledged to double down and bring 1 billion people into the financial mainstream by 2025, including 50 million micro and small merchants and 25 million women entrepreneurs. In September, as the United States grappled with a reckoning over racial injustice, the company announced it would invest $500 million in Black communities as an extension of that commitment.

Now, as we look back on 2020, we wanted to share a few highlights and stories from the Center’s ongoing programs and partnerships to help millions of individuals and businesses become more resilient. We look forward to continuing these efforts in 2021 as we work together to reimagine and restructure the economy to be fair, inclusive and just.

This year's top stories

Ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 therapies 

In March, Mastercard recognized COVID-19 would be a global challenge that not only represented a risk to the health and safety of populations all over the world, but also posed a potential disruption to the economic vitality of millions of people, businesses and organizations worldwide. We believed the private sector has an important role to play in addressing the crisis—companies can provide not only capital, but also complementary assets and skillsets to speed up the response to identifying effective treatments.

With a seed investment of $25 million from the Mastercard Impact Fund, we partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome to launch the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The Accelerator brings together regulators and manufacturers to advance more antivirals and immunotherapies to market that can treat the novel coronavirus, as well as ensure vulnerable populations can access and afford such therapies once they've been created. To date, the Accelerator has awarded more than $98 million in grants.

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A move to digital proved critical to small business resilience

COVID-19 pushed many businesses across the globe to the verge of collapse. We quickly found, however, that businesses that moved sales and operations online were better able to weather the crisis. Our partners pivoted to help them do that.

With our global partner Accion, we helped financial services providers in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria leverage digital tools to support underserved micro and small businesses, including reimagining group lending in a socially distant world, enhancing digital channels and implementing remote customer service.

Our partnership with MicroMentor enabled thousands of entrepreneurs in Jordan and Indonesia to quickly access coaching and mentoring online to pivot their businesses, while in Kenya, our Jaza Duka initiative with Unilever rapidly deployed relief to merchants and provided training in COVID-related health and hygiene.

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In the U.S., CDFIs kept capital flowing to small businesses on the brink

In the United States, small businesses in lower-income communities owned and operated by people of color and women were particularly fragile.

As part of Mastercard’s $250 million commitment to small businesses in April, we are working with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) like Community Reinvestment Fund and Grameen America to improve their digital infrastructure and drive more capital and support to these underserved small businesses.  

And, as the nation faced a reckoning over racial injustice, Mastercard expanded its efforts to unlock capital for Black-owned businesses through expanded partnerships with CDFIs, as part of a $500 million commitment to help close racial wealth and opportunity gaps in Black communities.

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The pandemic amplified opportunities to harness data science for social impact

In 2020, we put data science to work for social impact. We launched as a platform for building the field of data science for social impact, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation. will ensure nonprofit and civic organizations are well-positioned to take advantage of the data revolution.

And, with the Inclusive Growth and Recovery Challenge, we helped create a platform to crowdsource more than 1,250 ideas to use data science to address the simultaneous health, economic and social crises unfolding around the world. We also convened leading data scientists and technologists to share best practices and ideas for how data science can underpin systemic and lasting change.

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The Inclusive Growth Toolkit uncovered hidden potential in underserved places

It’s a familiar story by now—economic downturns leave the most vulnerable places farther behind. Former manufacturing hubs like Erie, Pennsylvania are a case in point. Once a thriving city, it has lost 30 percent of its population since its heyday in the 1960s.

But Erie’s on its way back up. Our Inclusive Growth Toolkit helped Erie’s economic development team uncover the hidden potential necessary to attract larger investors who might otherwise have passed them by. The investments have brought a grocery store, food hall and culinary arts program to downtown Erie—a $22 million project in all, supporting mostly women- and minority-owned businesses. And now, more communities across the U.S. can use this valuable tool now that we’ve extended the Inclusive Growth Score to include every census tract in the country.

Explore the tool

A new suite of tools helps city leaders build inclusive local economies

The Center and our research partners continued to add to our equity resources with a series of free online tools for city planners, policymakers and others to address disparities across neighborhoods and between workers.

The Spatial Equity Data Tool from the Urban Institute helps cities ensure that all residents, not just the affluent, benefit from “smart city” data. The Unequal Commute Tool, also from the Urban Institute, helps city planners in four U.S. cities map where more accessible transit is needed to ensure all residents have equal access to opportunity. The Brookings Institution’s Workforce of the Future initiative developed several tools to help cities promote inclusive economic development and worker mobility, including the Roadmap to Growing Good Jobs, Visualizing Vulnerable Jobs and Job Mobility and Smart Growth.

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Ideas from our expanded expert network aim to drive action

The Center, with our partners, launched a series of research-to-action networks to create timely, relevant and actionable insights on the digital economy (IDEA2030), led by experts at the Fletcher School at Tufts University), the future of workers (WorkRise), hosted by the Urban Institute) and financial security (New York University’s Financial Access Initiative).

We tapped into these partnerships to convene 80 leaders, experts and practitioners for our Inclusive Response and Recovery webinar series, which provided actionable insights on how to build a more resilient workforce post-pandemic, use data science for social impact, advance inclusive digitalization and close the digital divide.

Finally, our partnerships resulted in two new frameworks for action. Benefits21, through the Global Inclusive Growth Partnership with the Aspen Institute, put forth a framework and set of principles for building and delivering an integrated system of portable benefits, while Built for All, with the Centre for Public Impact, harnessed the ideas of our collective expert networks to define what an inclusive economy looks like and how public, private and non-profit sectors can drive action to rethink and reimagine how the economy operates.

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