Partnering with Cities: The Path to a Fair and Inclusive Society | City Possible angle-rightlearn more indicatorFill 1link icoFill 1PlayFill 1Fill 1

Partnering with Cities: The Path to a Fair and Inclusive Society

Wilmer Olano

Cities have a long legacy of catalyzing economic growth and progressive societal change­­. However, localities are currently bearing the brunt of conflicting crises – the coronavirus pandemic threatened lives and economies, while casting a light on systemic inequities that have persisted for generations, and exacerbated the racial economic wealth gap in major metropolitan areas.

Cities across the country are facing drastic budget cuts from diminished revenue streams, rising unemployment rates, increased social unrest, and strains on legacy digital infrastructure — but these challenges also present opportunities. In addition to the financial barriers, unequal access to education, housing, professional employment and advancement opportunities contribute to racial inequality in urban areas.

Inclusive growth creates an economy in which all boats rise, and inclusion is central to The Mastercard Way. In 2015, we committed to bring 500 million people into the digital economy by 2020. As that goal has been met, we’ve doubled-down, with total commitment to 1 billion people worldwide by pledging to bring another 500 million people into the digital economy by 2025. In addition, we’re committed to help 50 million small businesses, with a focus on women and minority entrepreneurs. The only way we’re going to achieve that is by building a more connected world where everyone has equal access to a better life. Progress starts on the local level. Building a more inclusive digital economy, involves partnering with cities to drive growth and expand access to opportunity for all residents and pave the pathway for economic mobility and sustainable wealth creation.

We recognize that cities play a crucial role in empowering financial inclusion. That’s why, as part of our $500M commitment to tackling the racial wealth gap, we are launching customized programs to meet the specific needs of Black communities, beginning with seven cities across the U.S.: Atlanta, Birmingham, Dayton, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, and St. Louis. We know that money alone will not solve structural racism and believe the most inclusive and sustainable way to affect change is to rebuild a system that works for everyone, everywhere.

Each of these seven cities have a strong heritage in fostering positive change and have developed forward-thinking programs to tackle disinvestment and systemic barriers that have created inequitable futures for Black communities. One size certainly doesn’t fit all, but all city stakeholders do share a common goal: improving quality of life for residents. Partnering with key local stakeholders including mayors, community organizations, our own Mastercard “City Ambassadors”, and strategic partners across all seven cities, we bring to bear the full breadth of Mastercard’s assets to break down the barriers that proliferate the racial wealth and opportunity gap by focusing on addressing key local challenges.

Expanding Access to Opportunity & City Services

  • Building on programs we’ve launched in New YorkAtlanta, and Los Angeles, we are partnering with city leaders to ensure quick and effective distribution of essential financial support and access to vital city programs, via Mastercard City Key, an inclusion platform that combines identification, access, and payment functionalities into one tool.
  • Partnering with civil rights organizations like the National Urban League (NUL), we are collaborating with local chapters to launch Entrepreneurship Centers and workforce development pathways that enable economic independence and mobility of Black people from low-income communities via integrated service delivery of business development, training and access to jobs, and asset building.

Informing Policy Decisions & Driving Investments

  • We are already working with city leaders and local community organizations to provide timely data insights around spending patterns at the neighborhood level to help the city attract valuable investments such as grocery stores, into places often overlooked for having low income residents. The data insights also help cities with planning and budget allocation to ensure post-COVID recovery is inclusive.

Closing the Achievement Gap

  • We are committed to setting up the next generation for financial success. Working with the Bronx Academy of Science and Engineering and the Partnership for NYC, we are helping establish a New York City high school dedicated to building cybersecurity skills.
  • In St. Louis we are partnering with NAFHerHonor, and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, to expand mentorship and internship programs for underserved and minority youth. Additionally, as the sponsor of LaunchCode’s CoderGirl program since 2018, we have helped 262 St. Louis women learn technical skills. We have hired 80 tech apprentices since 2014, of which 45% came from diverse backgrounds and 70% being women. This builds on our 14-year long partnership with Junior Achievement, which has provided 86,000 students with financial education through our volunteer efforts in the St. Louis region.

Breaking Down Barriers for Black Owned Businesses

  • Entrepreneurship is an important catalyst for building wealth but requires a substantial supportive resources including an infusion of capital and targeted investments to institutions that lend to Black-owned businesses.
  • In New York City, we’ve partnered with the Small Business Services organization to address these challenges by providing access to Digital Doors to Black-owned and run businesses free of charge for one year. We are working together to help 1,500 black owned businesses enter & strengthen their digital presence via training, mentorship, & networking. This complements the work we have been doing through Grameen America, to inject loan capital and support into the Harlem community in New York, supporting nearly 250 Black American small businesses that remain open to serve their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This investment is designed to have a catalytic impact on economic growth and prosperity for Black communities. Together, we must empower city leaders and local stakeholders with resources and technology, and build targeted solutions that address structural racism and support the priorities of each community.

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