The Urban Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth Announce “Accelerating Innovation for Inclusion”

May 15, 2019 | By Caroline Niven

Project Aims to Help City and Community Leaders Use Technology to Improve Lives

Today, the nonprofit Urban Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth announced a new collaboration to equip city and community leaders with insights and measurement tools to better understand how technology can improve quality of life for all residents.

As cities implement new technologies, some residents are at risk of being left behind without access to everything from government programs to computers and software, further exacerbating inequality. The public and private sectors can use data-driven approaches to boost economic mobility and improve services for residents, especially as those services are being digitized, but these approaches will require input from residents and a rigorous approach to evaluating progress.

As part of this collaboration, the Urban Institute will

  1. conduct research and analyses on how cities and the private sector can work together to drive inclusive growth and advance economic mobility among residents,
  2. develop practical metrics and tools to measure whether people’s lives are improving as new technologies are deployed, and
  3. work with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to share knowledge between various city leaders, policymakers, technology companies, and nonprofits to scale best practices.

Accelerating Innovation for Inclusion is a two-year initiative powered by a $1.5 million grant from the Mastercard Impact Fund. The grant was announced today to coincide with the Urban Institute’s Next50 Changemaker Forum, an event to commemorate Urban’s 50th anniversary and to launch a new research agenda for the future. As part of its Next50 initiative, Urban is exploring what it would take to advance greater economic mobility and opportunity in the decades to come.

"Powerful shifts in technology, climate, demographics, and the global economy are threatening to exacerbate inequalities," noted Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute. "This collaboration will explore how we can use technology to close those equity gaps, instead of widening them. For example, we will explore how governments can use new, tech-driven data and analytics to deliver public benefits to families who urgently need them. I am optimistic that, with thoughtfulness and new research, we will harness technology so that more people can access the opportunities they need to thrive."

“Technology is improving lives and connecting people in unprecedented ways, yet too many people are still being left behind simply because of where they live,” said Shamina Singh, founder and president of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “Working across public, private, and nonprofit sectors, we can build a digital economy that works for everyone, everywhere. By being thoughtful about how we pursue innovation, we can help city leaders address the broad range of complex challenges necessary to ensure inclusive growth.”

In the initial phase of the collaboration, Urban will focus on how technology can be leveraged to support growth in underinvested communities and improve equitable access to transportation and services.

The Accelerating Innovation for Inclusion initiative builds on an earlier collaboration (PDF) between Urban and the Center for Inclusive Growth, in which researchers interviewed city leaders, researchers, advocates, and experts to explore trends in technological change and to identify how those trends could exacerbate or mitigate inequalities in cities.


About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is a leading research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities. For 50 years, Urban has been the trusted source for rigorous analysis of complex social and economic issues; strategic advice to policymakers, philanthropists, and practitioners; and new, promising ideas that expand opportunities for all. Our work inspires effective decisions that advance fairness and enhance the well-being of people and places.

About the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth focuses on promoting equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. As a subsidiary of Mastercard, the Center leverages the company’s data, expertise and technology, along with administering the Mastercard Impact Fund’s philanthropic investments, to empower a community of thinkers, leaders and innovators on the front lines of inclusive growth. For more information and to receive its latest insights, follow the Center on Twitter @CNTR4growthsubscribe to its newsletter and visit

Caroline Niven