Social Innovations Group
Learn More


The Social Innovation Group consists of an interdisciplinary group of individuals specializing in the research and development of ubiquitous and social computing technologies. Our vision is simple: To design, build and enhance innovative technologies to solve real-world problems.

Our expertise lies in addressing real-world problems affecting marginalized groups and individuals primarily in the U.S. Our current projects aim to address unemployment, environmental sustainability, and technical literacy by fostering social and sociotechnical capital within these communities.

Our team is diverse, consisting of computer scientists, designers, social scientists, and business majors. We welcome undergraduate and graduate researchers, Ph.D.’s, and current or soon-to-be professionals looking to do social good.

Ongoing Projects

SocioTechnical capital, employment and economic mobility

Understanding the prospects for adapting technologies, such as online labor markets, to build and exploit both personal and impersonal SocioTechnical Capital (e.g., particularly among those with limited social and human capital) requires an understanding of the barriers that will need to be overcome to make such tools beneficial. This project aims to investigate these barriers and seek for ways for technology to mitigate them. This project also investigates existing tools that may be useful to these communities, and we design and implement customized tools to mitigate these barriers as well

People-Nearby Applications

People-nearby applications (PNAs), are social-matching systems that allow users to connect with strangers in real time and around the world based on geographical location. This project aims to explore how PNAs benifit users in terms of social and cultural capital.

SES and Search

In general, we are seeking to understand whether there are correlations between socioeconomic status and individual search behavior. Given the personalization of search, we would like to understand whether and how individual search results could be impacted when searching for online-information related to more critical topics like health, education, loans and job opportunities.

Environmental Sustainability

In this project, we explore social aspects of environmental sustainability and specifically communication around eco-feedback technologies. Another aspect of this research investigates issues around energy consumption faced by low income and/or renter households.


In this project, we explore existing data from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at the University of Michigan to understand how individuals unable to afford a formal education perform in these courses as compared to those able to afford formal education.

Past Projects


The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides comprehensive and affordable health insurance for many uninsured individuals and families in the United States. To take advantage of the new law, individuals will need to investigate and select insurance plans and enroll into the online Federal Health Insurance Exchange. For many vulnerable populations, this will be challenging as they may have never had insurance before, and may lack expertise in selecting the appropriate insurance provider.

Papers and Publications

Our Amazing Team


Tawanna Dillahunt

Principal Investigator, Team Lead

Julie Hui

UMSI Post-doc

Joey Chiao-Yin Hsiao

UMSI Ph.D. Student

Earnest Wheeler

UMSI Ph.D. Student

Ihudiya Finda Ogbonnaya-Ogburu

UMSI Ph.D. Student

Vaishnav Kameswaran

UMSI Ph.D. Student

Jason Lam

UMSI Alumni

Raden Tonev

UM MSI Student

Seungjoo Baek

UM MSI Student

Alex Lu

UM MSI/MSW Student

Marcy Held

UM MSI Student

Jason Brill

UM CS/Design Undergrad

Mingda Tang

UM Undergrad

Suleman Diwan



Brittney Atkinson-McFarlane

NSF REU, Cornell University Student

Ameera Ayodeji

NSF REU and Bowie State Alum

Nishan Bose


Thaddeus Brown

NSF REU and Bowie State Alum

Asha Chen-Phang

NSF REU, Northeastern University Student

David Cui

UM Undergrad

Jonathan De Heus


Michelle Fiesta


Indulekha Ghandikota

UROP Student, EECS

Samarth Gulati


Benjamin Jen

UROP Student, LSA

Jashanjit Kaur


Eva Li

UM CS/Stats Undergrad

Amy Malone

NSF REU Alum, University of Maryland Undergrad

Sandy Ng


Hailey Patterson

UROP Student, LSA

Pablo-Alejandro Quionones, Ph.D.


Jessica Salvador

UMSI REMS, University of Washington

Zengguang (Brian) Wang

UM Alum