Mechanism Design for Social Good

by   Rediet Abebe, et al.

Across various domains--such as health, education, and housing--improving societal welfare involves allocating resources, setting policies, targeting interventions, and regulating activities. These solutions have an immense impact on the day-to-day lives of individuals, whether in the form of access to quality healthcare, labor market outcomes, or how votes are accounted for in a democratic society. Problems that can have an out-sized impact on individuals whose opportunities have historically been limited often pose conceptual and technical challenges, requiring insights from many disciplines. Conversely, the lack of interdisciplinary approach can leave these urgent needs unaddressed and can even exacerbate underlying socioeconomic inequalities. To realize the opportunities in these domains, we need to correctly set objectives and reason about human behavior and actions. Doing so requires a deep grounding in the field of interest and collaboration with domain experts who understand the societal implications and feasibility of proposed solutions. These insights can play an instrumental role in proposing algorithmically-informed policies. In this article, we describe the Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG) research agenda, which involves using insights from algorithms, optimization, and mechanism design to improve access to opportunity. The MD4SG research community takes an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to improve societal welfare. We discuss three exciting research avenues within MD4SG related to improving access to opportunity in the developing world, labor markets and discrimination, and housing. For each of these, we showcase ongoing work, underline new directions, and discuss potential for implementing existing work in practice.


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