Time, the international magazine, named Professor Esther Duflo, director of MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab among the 100 most influential people in the world 2011. According to the magazine, over 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. Amazingly, very little is known about how they make economic choices and what might help ease their lives.

However, economist Esther Duflo, 38, is changing that. With her associates in MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, she has started an initiative to do something economists rarely do: gather real data about the effect of practical interventions that aim to alleviate poverty, to see what really works.

Time said that one of Duflo’s biggest findings is that microfinance, the poverty-reduction solution, isn’t the final solution. Like many great economic insights, it seems obvious when you think about microfinance that not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur. Duflo is relentless about questioning conventional wisdom, from the value of foreign aid (overblown) to how to entice parents to get their kids immunized (give the parents free food). Last year she won the John Bates Clark Medal, which makes her a Nobel winner in waiting. But she isn’t waiting to make the world a better place.

In 2005, MIT alumnus and Board of Trustees member Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel signed an agreement with MIT to develop and expand the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) activities in its mission to reduce poverty worldwide. The Lab, named in honor of Mr. Jameel’s father in 2005, is seeking to improve lives of 20 million people worldwide every year. J-PAL is a network of researchers and hundreds of partners around the world, with regional branches in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.