Over the last 75 years, a growing global economy enabled billions to lift themselves out of poverty. It fueled material prosperity and improvements in health, literacy, and nutrition and contributed to rising living standards, significant advances in technology, and soaring innovation.
On average, the impact of this unprecedented economic transformation was positive for humanity. However, the benefits of economic growth were not always fairly or broadly distributed, and the models of our past successes might not be those that could lead us into a new era of sustained and shared prosperity.
The crises of 2020, including COVID-19 and stark exposure of racial injustice, have created a moment for reflection and reset as countries and industries begin to rebuild. There is an opportunity—and an imperative—to reimagine our existing economic models to address worsening inequalities and exclusion. Still, there is surprisingly little consensus on how to define, measure, and create the conditions for an inclusive economy.
How do we build a better economy?
The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and the Centre for Public Impact team in North America led a collaborative exercise to gather insights from Nobel laureates, heads of international organizations, and some of the world’s leading thinkers across sectors. We asked the experts: What is wrong with the economy? How can we fix it? And we summarized what we heard in Built for All: A Global Framework for Building Inclusive Economies. Insightful and lengthy conversations amongst the different contributors ultimately landed around a ‘north star’ to imagine what an inclusive economy might look like.
“A truly inclusive economy is one that actually starts at the margins. To reach those at the margins, leaders will need to articulate ethical arguments and mobilize various sectors around principle-led commitments.”
-Joseph Wong, University of Toronto Vice-Provost, founder of the REACH project
Our expert panel identified four pressing systemic challenges that have perpetuated economic exclusion:
- Structural forms of exclusion, based on personal characteristics, which unnecessarily limit economic potential.
- A fractured social contract as the terms of worker participation in the economy—including wage growth, social benefits, and the availability of good jobs—have deteriorated.
- Mounting wealth and opportunity gaps decrease the portion of society with an invested stake in the future success of the economy, creating more bystanders and fewer participants.
- Lack of investment in shared resources and future generations creates a lack of resilience in essential sectors and unsustainable consumption of natural resources.
Designing an inclusive economy requires giving voice to individuals and places that have been insufficiently included up to now. It requires holding human decency at its core and investing in common goods and future generations. As countries and industries rebuild, leaders worldwide have an opportunity to reimagine how our economy operates.
“A ‘grow first and redistribute later’ mentality will never lead to true inclusion. Today’s overconcentration of wealth at the top is not a matter of redistribution; we need to reform the market structure itself.”
Gabriela Ramos, ex-G20 Sherpa at the OECD, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO.
Built for All was designed as an actionable framework for an inclusive global economy, which we define as a system that is intentionally designed to prioritize the flourishing of all people and the planet supported by three pillars:
- Equitable access to resources and opportunities
- A level playing field for work and competition
- Collective stewardship of shared resources for future generations.
Across each pillar, we put forward a set of ideal outcomes of an inclusive economy and potential actions that the private, public, and civic sectors can take to reimagine and rebuild economies (listed in the following table).
Public trust has decreased due to the profit over people mentality that has eliminated businesses’ clear commitments to local communities and because of government inefficiency and corruption. People need to trust the institutions promising change before they agree to participate in the system.
Frederick Riley, Weave: The Social Fabric Project, Aspen Institute
Where we go from here
Amidst a global pandemic and resulting economic downturn, we are unequivocally exposed to vast differences in financial security, job fragility, and access to opportunities, both between and within nations. Now is the time to work together, across all sectors, in the urgent task of building a better, more inclusive world.
We acknowledge that tackling this complex challenge will require new approaches to problem-solving, new institutions, and a new level of collaboration across sectors. Specific solutions and prioritization of private and public resources will look different across geographies and cultures. In all contexts, designing an inclusive economy will require acknowledging the limitations of past approaches, sharing power, and restoring voice to the individuals and places that have been underserved by our past systems.
Our wish is that Built for All raises the bar for conversations about building a better, more inclusive world. If you’re interested in further exploring this model or joining the conversation about how innovative partnerships can create inclusive economic growth, please get in touch with Kevval Hanna and the CPI Economic Mobility team.
Read the full report and learn what actions your organization can take to create an economy that is #Built4All