“There are some problems that we can solve. But we have to be pragmatic about it and figure out what is actually working and what is not.”

Dean Karlan is President of Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-profit organization that creates and evaluates solutions to social and development problems, and works to scale-up successful ideas through implementation and dissemination to policymakers, practitioners, investors and donors. He is a Professor of Economics at Yale University. 

“These are the most dangerous things; the things that have severe consequence and low probability…These are the events one worries about when one has to run a large organization.”

Yossi Sheffi explores the various flavors of redundancy, simplicity, flexibility and communications strategies businesses employ to make themselves resilient. 

We’re excited to introduce PopTech Editions, a feature that explores an emerging theme at the edge of change from the perspective of some of the remarkable innovators shaping it. From tracking behaviors within social networks to exploring the service-oriented nature of social innovation to getting a handle on the unanticipated outcomes of climate change, Editions serve as a guide to timely topics with original essays and articles from contributors, interviews from the field, videos on and off the PopTech stage, and more.

We’ll dive deep into a specific topic or trend on our radar and call upon PopTech’s rich network for their diverse viewpoints – and we’ll reach out to experts and thought leaders whose topical insights will help shape each issue.

In this edition, Person-to-person: Social contagion for social good, we’re exploring if and how we can harness social contagion for social good:

  • James Fowler provides tips on the science of spreading the word;
  • Rita Colwell recounts how folding saris is helping fight cholera;
  • Duncan Watts describes what we know – and don’t know – about social contagion;
  • Sinan Aral explores how we’re influenced by our social network;
  • Gary Slutkin describes how CeaseFire interrupts violence by spreading the message;
  • and much more!

Enjoy - and let us know what you think of this first Edition in the comments below.

What is behavioral economics? How is it different from standard economics?

In general, both standard and behavioral economics are interested in the same questions and topics.  The choices people make, the effects on incentives, the role of information etc. However, unlike standard economics, behavioral economics does not assume that people are rational. Instead, behavioral economists start by figuring out how people actually behave, often in a controlled lab environment in which we can understand behavior better, and use this as a starting point for building our understanding of human nature. As a consequence of this different starting point, behavioral economists usually come to different conclusions about the logic and efficacy of almost anything, ranging from mortgages to savings to healthcare in both the personal and business realms.

Dan Ariely, answering three questions on behavioral economics.