Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth Announces Inaugural Class of Data Fellows

Program brings together leading minds – from Internet pioneer to economist to brain surgeon – to close the information equality gap and tackle society’s biggest challenges

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth has announced its new Data Fellows program – a collaboration with some of the world’s brightest minds to harness data insights for social good. Over the course of the next 12 months the Fellows, including Internet pioneer Vint Cerf and sociologist Nicholas A. Christakis, will study trends and develop actionable insights to help policy makers and others put in place programs that can potentially improve the economic stability of vulnerable communities around the world, starting in the U.S.

Early projects include looking at the economic shock and recovery patterns following recent devastating hurricanes. By understanding challenges such as business recovery rates, tourism spend-related trends, and renovation efforts, the teams can help policy makers, local business owners, and local communities develop more impactful resiliency plans for the future.

“When a community suffers a shock – the closure of a manufacturing plant, displacement of family businesses through gentrification, or a natural disaster – the effects can be felt for generations,” said Shamina Singh, president, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “In order to solve a problem, first you have to get at the root of the issue. This exceptional group can uncover and help decipher evidence-based insights to make communities more inclusive and resilient.”

The inaugural class of Fellows come from a variety of disciplines and will work with Mastercard’s data scientists to identify patterns, develop research papers and glean insights to drive economic growth for underserved segments of society. Like other Center for Inclusive Growth data philanthropy initiatives, the insights resulting from this program will be made broadly available (subject to Mastercard’s comprehensive privacy and data protection review), so that others can use the research to inform decision-making and better the world.

The first class of Fellows includes:

  • VINT CERF – Widely known as a “Father of the Internet,” Cerf is one of the two co-inventors of the protocols and architecture of the Internet. He is also the recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Technology, ACM Alan M. Turing award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • NICHOLAS A. CHRISTAKIS – American sociologist and physician known for his research on the relationship between social networks and well-being. Christakis is Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science at Yale University and the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science. He was one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and included on Foreign Policy’s list of top global thinkers.
  • LEORA KLAPPER – Klapper is a Lead Economist at the World Bank and founder of the Findex, a global database and analysis of key trends around financial inclusion. Her research studies the impact of digital payments on individuals, businesses, and communities.
  • RAMANA NANDA – Nanda is the Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, where he teaches Entrepreneurial Finance in the MBA program and in executive education offerings.
  • MICHELLE THOMPSON – Thompson is an Associate Professor at the University of New Orleans in the Department of Planning & Urban Studies. She has pioneered the use of ‘p3GIS’ (public and private geographic information systems) to help communities recover and reinvest after economic shocks.
  • MELANIE WALKER – Walker is a computer scientist and endovascular neurosurgery fellow who has served in leadership roles at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Health Organization and, most recently, at the World Bank where she oversaw corporate performance related to the twin goals of eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Through its data philanthropy initiatives, the Center for Inclusive Growth has been working to leverage insights for social good while maintaining the highest privacy standards. Previous data philanthropy efforts from the Center for Inclusive Growth include analyzing the effects of economic development in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood, the impact of bike-sharing programs and free Wi-Fi on small retailers in New York City, and how local crime affected retail in Baltimore and Oakland.

“Companies need to rethink what it means to give back to the community,” said Jake Porway, executive director, DataKind. “Mastercard recognizes that modern day corporate philanthropy is not just about donating time or money to charity. It’s also about responsibly leveraging assets like data insights that allow our best minds to study pressing social issues, and provide clarity around how we move towards a more inclusive and prosperous society.”