Almost half of Americans cannot cover a $400 emergency expense, leaving them economically exposed. We are plagued by a poverty – not of skills or ambitions, but a poverty of access. Too many people are disconnected from the networks they need to thrive and prosper, exacerbating barriers to education, transportation, affordable housing and financial services.
Those of us in the private sector have a unique role to play in helping people overcome these barriers, enabling communities – and even whole countries – to navigate a rapidly changing economy. How we leverage the technology, data, expertise and philanthropic dollars of our companies to be a force for good will be a hot topic this week during the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.
At the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, we’re working in partnership with governments, research institutes, charitable organizations and other businesses to ensure that communities across the U.S. and around the world can access the networks and know-how to achieve inclusive growth. At SXSW, we’ll be sharing insights on this topic from a series of listening sessions in which Mastercard executives met with employers, community leaders and workers in seven U.S. cities.
By listening locally, we hope to shape innovations globally. We are developing new insights and solutions that can unlock the economic potential of some of our nation’s most economically insecure people. We are partnering with organizations like Accion, PolicyLink and the Urban Institute, to tackle the pressing concerns of workers and small business owners. And we are joining forces with companies like Unilever and Care.com to connect entrepreneurs and home care workers with digital tools that help them buy, sell, earn, spend and save.
We believe in the power of companies like Mastercard – working hand-in-glove with other sectors – to build a more resilient workforce and a stronger economy. As Mastercard’s chief financial officer shared last week, the company is investing in doing good with a new $500 million endowment to fund positive social impact, complementing the philanthropic work of the Center and helping to ensure fair and lasting economic growth that benefits all segments of society.
I grew up in a small town in southern Virginia. My parents were immigrants who came to this country seeking opportunity, ready to contribute to their adoptive community. Today, they live in the same house where I grew up. For more than a half century, they’ve been able to weather good times and bad because of the social and financial networks they created, the support systems that are vital to building resilience. Passing on that sense of security and community to the next generation is a debt we owe to this country. It’s a model we can offer to the world. That is the message I’ll be carrying with me at SXSW this week.
Learn more about our efforts to advance shared prosperity by following us @CNTR4growth. For those attending SxSW, join the discussion at the events where I’ll be speaking:
Monday, March 12: 10:35 – 11 am: “Making Cities Inclusive, Equitable And Sustainable” (Four Seasons Hotel, East Lawn)
Tuesday, March 13: 9:30 – 10:30 am: “Spirituality of Philanthropy” (Westin Austin Downtown 310 E 5th St)
Shamina Singh is the president of the Center for Inclusive Growth. This post was originally published on LinkedIn.