The widespread usage of mobile devices and social networks opens unique opportunities to design new mechanisms on top of those networks—mechanisms that lead to meaningful connections which otherwise would not have occurred.
Imagine, for example, a student who attends an economically poor school and wishes to someday become a computer scientist, but lacks direction on how to achieve that goal. Suppose there is a system that connects this student with a college graduate in computer science from the student’s hometown—a graduate who is willing and able to guide this student down a similar career trajectory.
Facebook has numerous products that try to make such positive connections. Some are part of its social good initiative: products that connect mentors to mentees, products that help people connect and support one another with resources and information during crises, products that allow nonprofits and individuals to create charitable giving fundraisers (with the option to match donations to incentivize participation), and blood donation tools that connect donors to those in need. Separately, Facebook Jobs is a product in which job seekers are connected to small businesses, and Facebook Dating is an upcoming product that aims to help people find partners for long-lasting relationships.
Designing the rules of these types of systems falls into the research agenda of mechanism design for social good (MD4SG). Relative to traditional mechanism design, MD4SG (1) restricts itself to mechanism desiderata with some broader benefit to society, and (2) often starts from a domain of practical importance that is relatively unstudied by the mechanism design community. While this call for proposals is distinct from the MD4SG research group and workshop series, we want to provide support for those efforts and further grow that community. To that end, Facebook is pleased to support the MD4SG agenda by offering $150K in research grants in this area.
Researchers should consider the following problem. Suppose there is (1) an existing online platform that is actively used by the population, and (2) an existing set of social ills (e.g., unemployment, disease, poverty, divisiveness, loneliness). How should one design mechanisms on top of such an online platform to build community in a way that alleviates these social ills?