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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues


Accelerating progress in social and environmental sustainability

Mat Despard

Associate Professor, UNC Greensboro Department of Social Work, Faculty Director, Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis

Mat Despard is an Associate Professor at UNC Greensboro in the Department of Social Work and Faculty Director with the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. His research focuses on the financial inclusion and security of low- and moderate-income households and the capacity of nonprofit organizations serving these households.

Through the Workforce Financial Stability Initiative, Dr. Despard and his colleagues are conducting research on employee financial wellness programs, a new type of workplace benefit, including digital platforms and apps offered by fin tech firms, a remote financial counseling service offered by a social enterprise, and employer-sponsored small-dollar loans. Despard is also studying online tax-time savings interventions informed by behavioral economics in partnership with Intuit Corporation and “health-wealth” interventions in partnership with Centene Corporation, a Fortune 100 managed care company. These projects are supported by J.P. Morgan Chase & Company, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Centene, and Intuit.

Dr. Despard also conducts research on a range of consumer finance topics including student debt, material hardship, financial shocks, liquid assets, use of financial services, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. His research has been published in a wide variety of academic journals including Journal of Consumer Affairs, Behavioral Science and Policy, Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, Journal of Family and Economic Issues, and Journal of Economics, Race, and Policy and he recently published two book chapters on financial inclusion and social innovation. He and his colleague’s research has also been featured through the Atlantic, Consumer Reports, Marketplace, WalletHub, US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, PlanSource, New America, Prosperity Now, Businessolver, and the Conference Board.

From 2011 to 2015 Dr. Despard taught “Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations” and was a trainer and adviser for the Nonprofit Board Fellows Program at Kenan-Flagler. Prior to this academic career, he worked for several years in and with local nonprofit organizations. He received his MSW and PhD degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech.