Technology has had a large impact on the field of philanthropy, from changing how individuals decide which causes to support to facilitating quick and easy donations with the push of a button. Some organizations are harnessing the power of technology in novel ways. MasterCard, for example, is investigating big data as a means of bridging the divide between public and private organizations and helping philanthropic organizations maximize their impact. “Big data” has become a buzzword across many industries, with executives harnessing analytical processes to drive profits. Luckily, organizations like MasterCard are looking beyond profitability when considering the potential of big data.
MasterCard Launches Its Center for Inclusive Growth
While most people likely think of MasterCard as a credit company, the organization really considers itself a technology firm specialized in the payments industry. Currently, MasterCard works in more than 200 countries around the world to make transactions between buyers and sellers as seamless as possible. Also dedicated to philanthropy, MasterCard launched its Center for Inclusive Growth in 2013. This center, which functions as an independent subsidiary, looks specifically at how different data can be used for social progress. MasterCard has many data assets, and the center is the fruition of the belief that this information can be used to effect positive change in local communities. The center is also said to be an example for other corporations who might follow suit and use their own big data to push for progress.
MasterCard professionals primarily see big data as a way to bridge the divide between private and public initiatives. According to the company’s vice chairman, both the public and private sector have the ability to accomplish great things; however, efficacy is driven by collaboration, and both sides are working from different perspectives. Traditionally, public and private organizations operate as silos and do not share information. By breaking down these barriers, MasterCard hopes to generate what it calls “inclusive growth.” Because MasterCard is involved with the payment industry, its vision of inclusive growth involves expanding financial inclusion and effecting sustainable, long-term growth that can benefit the 2 million underserved people around the globe.
What Does Data Philanthropy Look Like?
The Center for Inclusive Growth understands that data is a valuable resource for many organizations and strives to provide information to organizations that do not have access to it already. The United Nations Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development reported that new technologies are leading to an exponential expansion of data both in terms of type and volume. At the same time, says the group, many organizations and governments do not have access to this world because of lack of capacity or resources. Growing gaps in data access is becoming one of the most pressing issues in modern philanthropy. MasterCard has adopted a policy of data philanthropy, which facilitates the sharing of data and fuels collaboration. The company’s center has three facets of its data philanthropy mission.
The first facet involves data knowledge. The center creates strategic ties to nonprofit and governmental organizations that are tackling a wide range of different initiatives. For example, MasterCard teamed with the Data-Driven Justice Initiative implemented under President Barack Obama to address issues related to criminal justice reform. The data provided by MasterCard shed light on the direct impact of crime on merchants, and therefore opportunities for local jobs in Baltimore. This information resulted in better programming to address the problem. The project has grown into a larger initiative to correlate business closings with commercial robberies using MasterCard’s private data in combination with public crime data. The report from this project has helped business leaders learn more about what impacts the success of a local storefront.
Data knowledge is closely related to data grants, the second facet. While data knowledge results in a partnership between the center and MasterCard, a data grant gives particular organization access to proprietary insights that could be used to support social initiatives. These insights always protect consumer privacy.
The final facet allows MasterCard to leverage the expertise of its employees to support social enterprise. For example, MasterCard teamed up with DataKind and offered 100 of its data scientists to work on various data science initiatives with a philanthropic bent. These projects involved but local and global programs. The founder of DataKind, which undertakes just projects, says that however abundant data is, that knowledge can only be put to good use through human capital. MasterCard responded by providing the manpower needed to get some projects off the ground and further others.
The projects undertaken by DataKind are very diverse. In the past, the organization has helped correlate food scarcity in Africa with specific diseases and worked with the Red Cross to launch a program meant to minimize fire deaths. On a more local level, MasterCard teamed with a community college to gain better insight on drop-out and success rates. This data could then be used to boost graduation rates and provide more support for students.