MasterCard’s Push To Innovate Humanitarian Aid

MasterCard World Humanitarian Summit

Funding for humanitarian services reached an all-time high last year, but unfortunately, there is still a severe gap between the aid available and the global need.

“The only way to close that gap isn’t just to keep going back and asking for more funds but to look at how you’re delivering aid and try to find more efficient methodologies,” Paul Musser, VP of International Development at MasterCard, recently told Karen Webster.

The key, Musser said, is to not just provide solutions that serve communities after a disaster strikes but to use a human-centric approach to drive sustainable growth through financial inclusion.

This week, MasterCard is participating in the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, with plans to announce new humanitarian aid solutions and demonstrate the importance of innovating beyond traditional corporate social responsibility approaches.

The event will bring together stakeholders in the humanitarian community, both from the private and public sectors, to make commitments for facilitating improvement in the aid environment.

“The way that the need is growing, aid can’t keep up,” Musser said frankly, adding that MasterCard’s focus is to build on the understanding that if inclusive growth is key to the company’s growth, that means supporting a shared-value model with the “organizations that are doing amazing work” in the space.

Musser said that MasterCard’s desire is not to just drop in when a crisis takes place but to deploy a new approach to look at humanitarian aid solutions from a holistic perspective and also focus on the right partnerships to drive the consistency of delivery.

Supporting what Webster described as a baseline of financial inclusion and access that’s needed no matter what will require opening the door to an ongoing infrastructure conversation.

During the World Humanitarian Summit, MasterCard is expected to announce the start of a multi-year project to bring together both public and private sector players in a set of projects around data protection and identity management.

“These are the things we know, from working in financial inclusion, have to be done right,” Musser added.

MasterCard will also be discussing its digital voucher service, called MasterCard Aid, that’s designed specifically to help UN agencies and NGOs delivering aid in communities that are not easily reached by traditional payment services.

MasterCard Aid took home the Gold award at the PYMNTS 2016 Innovators Awards for the Best POS Innovation.

A new effort will begin to ensure MasterCard Aid becomes fully available over the next few months, to provide those in need with a single card that gives access to cash, as well as point-based voucher services, Musser explained.

This announcement comes at a time when a transformational shift is happening in the humanitarian community — a move away from delivering commodities, such as food or materials, and towards embracing market economies.

Musser said that the humanitarian community is recognizing that it’s empowering to be able to tell a person, “I trust you to buy what you need” and provide them with cash rather than things.

Though there is a significant push towards cash disbursement, there are still challenges because it can be difficult to give cash in all situations.

But by taking stock of the true cost of cash, Musser said MasterCard hopes to use digital methods to efficiently cut down on the pain points that come with using cash, while also providing a mechanism for people to care for themselves, as opposed to be given the things they need.

The World Humanitarian Summit event will also feature a 24-hour Hack4Humanity hackathon event, designed to focus on solutions that have the power to be transformational in the lives of refugees.

These solutions could address a number of issues facing refugees today, such as tracking down family members, educating children or even the availability of health care services.

Musser said that consumer-centric design is at the heart of success. Though it’s wonderful to have people in a room coming up with good ideas, it’s completely different “to sit across the table and talk about the real pain points and how do we make an incremental difference.”