Engineer Irene Lo studies markets, but not traditional marketplaces based in cash.
Instead, she studies markets for goods/resources that place a high value on social goods like diversity, fairness and equity.
Thus, Lo came to help San Francisco create an algorithm to assign kids more fairly to public schools across geographic, social, racial and economic boundaries. As it turns out, math is just the first step. The most challenging part was getting families to trust in the system, begetting a multi-year community engagement effort.
Lo is now turning her attention to other markets with social impact, like her work on the system that places medical students in residency programs across the country or one trying to make the palm oil supply chain fairer for farmers.