Sustainable Growth

“An Act of Justice”

October 21, 2019  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below welcoming remarks at the inaugural Global Inclusive Growth Summit, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, on October 21, 2019 in Washington. DC. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.

Good morning. Welcome to the inaugural Global Inclusive Growth Summit presented by the Aspen Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Please join me in thanking all who have prepared this room and our meals and whose planning these past few months has made this convening possible.

I know I speak for Aspen Institute Board Chair Jim Crown and our Program Strategy Committee Chair Madeleine Albright when I thank the entire Mastercard organization for the remarkable emphasis it’s placed on inclusive growth.

We’re here today because growing economic inequality and exclusion is one of the defining threats of our time. This is not news. In his great 2005 Trafalgar Square speech, Nelson Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

I look out at you and see action-oriented, purpose-driven leaders who are animated by a love of people and a thirst for justice—and that’s exactly what’s needed to make progress on a challenge that affects us all.

We live in an era of rapidly growing prosperity for some and rising adversity for many.

We all know that the digital revolution and its offspring, the fourth industrial revolution, have brought many wondrous breakthroughs in communications, in health care, in business efficiency, in data systems, in automation, in machine learning, and in growing access to information and technology platforms.

Just looking around the room, we know that so much of that is good.

For example, it’s wondrous that through the tech-enabled lending platform Kiva, led by Neville Crawley, any of us can lend $50 to grassroots entrepreneurs in 78 different countries and enjoy a 96.8% repayment rate.

It’s wondrous to know that organizations like Laboratoria in Lima, led by Mariana Costa Checa, are preparing low-income women for tech careers—and linking its well-trained graduates to jobs with local and global business partners.

And it’s wondrous to know that when we go back to work tomorrow we can contact the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, led by Maryana Iskander, and help young people in Rwanda or South Africa use a high-tech “pathwaying platform” to connect them to jobs behind a counter at Nando’s or at a desk at Deloitte.

But the flip side of this revolution is the growing divide between those who are connected to the networks that fuel the modern economy and those who are cut off.

The world’s richest one percent now own as much as 45 percent of global wealth—a crisis will almost certainly worsen as escalating generational wealth widens the divide.

We can’t let that happen.

We need more family-sustaining jobs, not fewer.

We need more community co-ops, not fewer.

We need more activated opportunity zones, not fewer.

We need more families with savings, not fewer.

We need more sustainable farms, not fewer.

We need more girls in school, not fewer.

All of that is part of building a more inclusive economy. It will take smart policies, enlightened businesses, new financial instruments, honest government, empowered communities, and activated citizens. Things are pretty disjointed now. One thing is certain: We need change.

We must make our economy more inclusive so that the benefits of growth extend to all people and all communities:

That means removing barriers to work, education, childcare, health, safety, opportunity, local empowerment, and economic dignity.

It means unleashing the power of innovation and investment and partnerships and policy and data for good.

It means marshalling our collective resources to drive economic growth that is sustainable, which will require addressing the twin scourges of climate change and structural discrimination based on identity.

It means accessing once more the language of ethics and never letting ourselves forget that all humans have equal dignity and no one is more human than anyone else.

To say it simply: If economic growth is enjoyed only by the few, it won’t be sustained by the many—and that’s bad for all.

So, we must have inclusive growth. That’s why we’re here today. And it’s a big part of why the Aspen Institute is here, period. Our purpose is to promote a free, just and equitable society. For seven decades we’ve driven change by reaching across the supposed divides of politics and place, of identity and ideology, to bring together thinkers and doers committed to helping solve our greatest problems.

We’re partnering on this summit with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth because we want to work with and learn from others who are obsessed with creating inclusive, growing economies—local, regional, national, global.

We know all of you share that obsession, and we thank you.

I’m now pleased to introduce Mike Froman from Mastercard, whose leadership has been the summit’s launching pad. Thank you, Mike.