The Global Inclusive Growth Summit's Most Memorable Moments

Four key takeaways from the event

The Global Inclusive Growth Summit's Most Memorable Moments

November 12, 2019

A CEO recounts his difficulties getting a cellphone due to his lack of credit history. A labor leader warns the United States is in danger of becoming a low-wage nation. A South African entrepreneur challenges employers to rethink arbitrary and outdated qualifications for jobs. And, a former U.S. secretary of state reminds everyone that trust begins by talking to one another, not at one another.

These are just a few of the memorable moments from the inaugural Global Inclusive Growth Summit held on October 21, co-hosted by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and The Aspen Institute. The conversations were wide-ranging, but there was consensus around one idea: purpose-driven leaders need to come together to ensure everyone can benefit from economic growth.    

“The only truly sustainable growth is inclusive growth,” Mastercard Vice Chairman Mike Froman said in his opening remarks. “That poses serious challenges that can’t be solved by governments, non-profits or philanthropies alone. These challenges require collaboration and partnerships.” 

The speakers addressing these and other issues over the course of the day included a diverse group, from leading policymakers to scholars to corporate headliners to grassroots advocates. The call was to inspire new ideas and galvanize real action to create a more inclusive economy.

From more than 50 presenters and panelists, we’ve summarized the highlights in four key takeaways. Some content has been lightly edited for clarity. 

1. Inclusion makes good business sense

Entrepreneurship is a critical source of new jobs and economic dynamism, but the capital to support start-ups has been concentrated in just a few places. “We are at a 30-year low in new firms. So we really need all the ideas and all the players on the field and we have to somehow come together to move capital to them,” said Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation. She also pointed out that women-led firms tend to be more profitable and diverse teams outperform those that are less diverse.

At the corporate level, a new generation of leaders, employees and customers is demanding more social impact. Shareholders are also much more engaged, said Anne Finucane, vice chairman of Bank of America. ”Five years ago, if you talked about social responsibility that would be when the portfolio managers would get up and get their coffee,” Finucane said. “Today, I’m facing three people representing an institutional shareholder, and they’re asking tough questions.”

2. Systems and structures can work better for people

In 2000, Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga came to the U.S. as a senior mid-level executive. Initially, he couldn’t get a cell phone because he didn’t have a credit history in the U.S. That experience stuck with him and informed his leadership on financial inclusion.

“I remember thinking that this is wrong. I learned that most people who come to the U.S. get their first card or car loan by having a friend or a relative guarantee it for them,” said Banga, in a candid fireside chat with legendary journalist Tina Brown. “That makes no sense. We’ve got to construct a model that makes sense for people and not one that’s built off people who only understand privilege.”

We can also reframe the way we approach the people and communities we’re seeking to impact. “We don’t see the places where we’re working as poverty-stricken communities. Actually, there’s no such thing,” said Dan Porterfield, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, the Summit’s co-sponsor. “They’re poverty-structured communities -- which means the structures that hold people back can be changed with imagination and co-creation.”

3. It’s time to rethink skills and job qualifications

To create better pathways for upward mobility, employers should re-evaluate their approach to hiring, argued several speakers. In the U.S., 60 percent of the working-age population lacks a bachelor’s degree, said Byron Auguste, CEO and co-founder of Opportunity@Work. Yet, to many employers, these workers are simply invisible. And that’s a lot of overlooked talent, he said.

“If you have a bachelor's degree and you’re a waitress, then you’re assumed to be underemployed. But if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree and you’re a waitress, then it’s assumed that that’s all you can ever do,” said Auguste. “Low wage is not the same as low skilled. People use it interchangeably and that is very damaging.”

Requiring arbitrary credentials for basic jobs is also stifling opportunity, said Maryana Iskander, CEO of the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a South African organization working to match youth to jobs based on real-world job requirements. “There’s a growing consensus that today’s education is not delivering for tomorrow jobs,” said Iskander. “And maybe, just maybe, all of our focus and funding on getting more and more skills for young people is misplaced.”

4. Progress depends on building trust and finding common ground

In a rousing closing call to action, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke passionately about the need to find common ground in a conversation with Joshua Johnson, founding host of National Public Radio’s “1A.”

“We are better off when we look for what we have in common rather than what differentiates us,” she said. “We must try to figure out solutions together and count an awful lot on the young people that have different ideas, like the Parkland kids or Greta [Thunberg].”

Building trust across public, private and philanthropic sectors is also critical to accelerating progress.

“At the heart of trust between two parties is that each should see, believe in and deliver on a shared commitment,” said Shamina Singh, the Center’s founder and president. “As I think about the stakes and challenges before us, they are undoubtedly great, which means not one of us alone can move the needle.”

Learn more about the $72 million in commitments made at the Global Inclusive Growth Summit.