Published 3 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Erected in the '60s through the heart of New Orleans, I-10 decimated communities along the Claiborne Corridor
As the digital age ushers in a ‘new generation of inequalities’ around information, technology and education, the private sector must play a pivotal role in connecting people to the resources and networks they need to get by and get ahead in a changing economy.
Over the past three decades, it has become increasingly clear that neighborhoods
play a key role in shaping economic prospects. A long body of research shows
where we live determines many of our life opportunities — from access to good
schools to decent jobs to transportation that connects us to those jobs.
Take the historic neighborhoods along New Orleans’ Claiborne Avenue. In
its heyday, Claiborne Corridor was a cradle of jazz and the heart of a thriving
Black business district. Then came the construction of the Interstate. Erected
in the 1960s, I-10 devastated the area, ushering in a long period of isolation
Today, Claiborne Avenue touches some of the most vulnerable parts of the city.
Life expectancy is 10-20 years shorter than in communities just a few miles
away. In Tremé, a historic neighborhood along the avenue, nearly 4 in 10
people live in poverty.
Two years ago, Dr. Michelle Thompson — a professor of planning and urban studies
at the University of New Orleans — came to
Mastercard with a big idea
about how we could help support these neighborhoods. She wasn’t looking for a
check; she was looking for data insights.
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By combining on-the-ground information from open-source data and insights from
Mastercard’s anonymized and aggregated transaction data, we could help her build
a new model to help low-income areas attract much-needed investment.
Our partnership with Dr. Thompson and the community in New Orleans offers
several lessons for other purpose-driven companies committed to doing well by
doing good. We’ve found it takes a combination of the right insights, people and
partnerships to power change from the ground up.
Analytics are a valuable commodity in the digital age. Companies have invested
heavily in the latest insights and tools to help their businesses grow. The
public and nonprofit sectors should be able to share in these advantages, but
they too often lack the resources to harness data and information. At the
Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, we recognize
that we cannot progress by looking at economic inequality in isolation; we must
also address the growing challenge around information inequality.
Data insights can help cities build new models to help low-income areas attract
much-needed investment | Image credit: Mastercard
That’s why we’re working to connect those on the front lines of inclusive growth
with the tools they need to leverage the power of data and information for
social impact. When leaders have better metrics and tools to hear from citizens
and track trends in neighborhoods, they can ensure
investments are solving the needs that matter most to residents. Network
analytics can also help cities anticipate which industries will help them
accelerate growth and create quality jobs so they can
be proactive, not reactive.
With Dr. Thompson, our team of data scientists analyzed consumer spending,
ultimately finding that spending and store openings in the neighborhood had
risen sharply since 2015 — a finding that surprised
many. Community leaders say the insights are vital to their efforts to attract
new investments and ensure development efforts benefit everyone in the
Data and analytics aren’t enough on their own; it’s important to engage the
experts closest to the problem. Community organizers and researchers bring
needed context to data analysis — and will ask very different questions of the
data than your own employees, clients or customers.
Asali Devan Ecclesiastes (right), Director of Strategic Neighborhood Development at the New
Orleans Business Alliance, talks to a business owner on Claiborne Avenue | Image credit: Mastercard
It’s also important for companies to employ a diverse group of people and tap
into their unique expertise. As a former labor organizer and public servant who
now leads philanthropy and sustainability at Mastercard, I recognize the value
of bringing the right people to the table to get to a win for everyone. As more
purpose-driven companies align their business strategies with social impact, we
should recruit leaders with grassroots organizing experience to the private
sector. These changemakers can see untapped potential for harnessing a company’s
expertise, technology, data and relationships for social impact. They also have
the skills to pull from their diverse experiences, know-how and networks to make
a difference at the right time.
The New Orleans project, which involved more than 60 Mastercard data scientists,
also spurred the creation of a new internal program to engage the company’s
600-plus data experts in pro bono work. Such efforts can offer employees a
greater sense of purpose and a stronger connection to the place where they work,
which is critical to recruiting and retaining top talent. They also enhance a
company’s ability to create impact.
As the digital age ushers in a ‘new generation of inequalities’ around
information, technology and education, the private sector must play a pivotal
role in connecting people to the resources and networks they need to get by and
get ahead in a changing economy.
To be truly inclusive, all communities and people will need information to make
smarter decisions, transact more safely and securely, acquire the tools to
better manage their time and money, and enjoy lifelong opportunities to learn
new skills to remain productive in the workforce.
It will require big solutions, and that takes collaboration. Partnerships such
as Data Science for Social Impact, which we launched
with the Rockefeller Foundation last year, will be critical to empowering
nonprofit, civic and government organizations by giving them the tools,
expertise and knowledge to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.
Let’s work together to build programs, platforms and the partnerships that
harness the innovations that are driving upheaval to make technology work for
people, not against them.
Published Jan 22, 2020 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
For more than 20 years, Shamina Singh has been on the front lines of developing and implementing solutions to make the global economy work for everyone, everywhere. Shamina is the Founder & President of the Center for Inclusive Growth, the philanthropic hub of Mastercard. She also serves as Executive Vice President of Corporate Sustainability.