Rising to the Inclusive Growth Challenge

With the Center's sponsorship of season 4 of the award-winning podcast Masters of Scale, we’re inviting innovators to submit their big idea for a chance to be featured in a future episode.

Rising to the Inclusive Growth Challenge

May 07, 2019

The world’s problems may be great, but the world’s capacity to innovate is even greater. At the Center for Inclusive Growth, we’re tapping Mastercard core assets and the new Impact Fund to help people achieve greater financial security, bring opportunity to left-behind places, support the economic mobility of workers and leverage the power of data for good.

The Center sees an enormous opportunity to bring together private, public and nonprofit sectors to move the needle toward shared prosperity. But we need you. We are looking for innovative ideas to make the world a better place. If you have a business, data set or brilliant idea to address any of the four challenges below, pitch it. We’re listening. 

Challenge #1 – Credit Where Credit is Due

How can we help micro-businesses grow? Globally, there are 400 million small businesses around the world. Many want to expand but they lack capital. While traditional banks often don’t offer products/services for this segment, micro-lenders are ready to step up and serve these small strivers. Yet these micro-lenders —in the US they fall under the community development financial institutions  (CDFI) umbrella— need help. While many of us do our banking digitally, many CDFIs are still using paper and pencil and traditional methods of cutting checks. We have to ask ourselves, why are we offering poor people poor solutions?

We want to help CDFIs become more efficient and serve more people. CDFIs need apps and digital options to automate the lending process. Grameen America did so, and they increased their productivity, helping many more low-income entrepreneurs build a future. So how can you help CDFIs digitize? 

Challenge #2 – Data Science for Good

How can nonprofits use data to help them do even more good? Global corporations use data every day to inform their strategies and solutions but many nonprofits can’t afford a team of data scientists and therefore leave a lot of potential on the table. John Jay College, for example, wanted to improve African American graduation rates. They had tons of data that could inform a strategy to help students, but lacked the resources to glean insights from it until DataKind, with our support, volunteered. DataKind created an algorithm to identify students who needed help and assess when to intervene because knowing the critical stages where students stumble is key to their success. 

We want to create more examples like this, and we think we bringing more data scientists into nonprofits is a good place to start. We’ve recently partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to create a new field of data science for social impact. This is a first step, but we need more. There’s great data out there waiting to be used, so how do we make data science available to nonprofits, committed to inequality? What ideas or tools can help better leverage data for social good?

Challenge #3 – Benefits to Go

How do we make sure gig economy workers aren’t one step away from financial ruin? In America, our insurance, retirement benefits, and other safety nets are tied to our employer. But, in the gig economy workers are free agents. While gig workers enjoy the flexibility of their jobs, they also worry about their economic vulnerability. A broken arm without health insurance can take two years of working just to recoup the costs.

Gig work is growing three times faster than salary jobs. Benefits must change to match this shift. We need to put our heads together and figure out how to tie benefits to the worker rather than the employer. Wouldn’t it be interesting if workers could collect and redeem points for a night class like we do for an airline upgrade? There are no doubt other novel solutions—we want to hear how you’d help American gig workers be more secure. 

Challenge #4 – The Opportunity in Opportunity Zones

Opportunity Zones are a new way to drive investment to low-income, distressed neighborhoods and communities. Investors can lower their taxes by reinvesting capital gains in these targeted neighborhoods. While a welcome addition to community development, many worry that the incentives will supercharge investment in places that were already growing instead of those that are most in need.

The Center wants to make sure Opportunity Zones bring opportunity to those who need it most. We’re looking for help in using data insights to boost impact. Can we uncover important economic and other trends in neighborhoods that mayors and city planners can use to guide investment? Can we use transaction insights to uncover spending power in communities long thought to lack it? Can we create typologies for communities primed for investment? Send us your ideas on how we can equip mayors with the data and insights they need to keep their cities vibrant and full of opportunity for all.

Do you have a brilliant idea to solve any of these challenges? If so, we’re all ears.

Share your solutions by May 15 on the Mastercard Impact Challenge contest page here. We’ll pick the most exciting idea and invite you to present it on a future episode of Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman.

Though the contest ends May 15,  the problems do not. If you miss the deadline, we still want to hear from you! We’re always on the hunt for social innovators and partners to help us create and scale solutions for positive social impact. You can email solutions and ideas to