Poverty Simulation

Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the nation, and more than 800,000 of our neighbors live below the federal poverty line.

Poverty is not a game. It’s a reality for people in our own backyard. Taking the poverty challenge means learning what it’s like to live in poverty.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation is a unique, interactive experience that helps facilitate understanding of the challenges faced by individuals in our community who are living at or below the poverty level. The simulation increases participants’ understanding of hardships and the emotional toll experienced by impoverished members of our society and the work it takes to achieve self-sufficiency.

This educational and professional development experience was created as a way to help business and community leaders; students, faculty, and administrators; faith-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, and others understand the realities of poverty. During the simulation, participants role-play the lives of families living at or below the poverty level. Participants will experience typical challenges faced by individuals living in the context of constrained financial circumstances including maintaining employment, caring for children or elderly family members, seeking public assistance, and dealing with transportation issues.

The poverty simulation was designed to sensitize those who frequently deal with low-income families, as well as to create a broader awareness of the realities of poverty among policymakers, business and community leaders, students, faculty, administrators, and more. The simulation enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their community. Social work CEUs will be available, and Alabama Possible can collaborate with other providers to provide continuing education credit for participants.


The simulation involves 44-80 participants who take on the roles of members of 26 families, all facing a variety of challenging, but typical, circumstances. Participants are seated in family clusters, and community resources are located at tables around the perimeter of the room. The simulation includes an introduction and briefing by a facilitator, the simulation exercise, and a facilitated debriefing in which participants and volunteers share what they have learned about living in poverty. A full simulation last approximately 2 hours. During the simulation, participants role-play the lives of those who may have fallen on hard times. Some will be TANF recipients, some will be disabled, and some will play the role of senior citizens on Social Security. They have the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four, 15-minute “weeks.” They interact with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.

Who Can Benefit?

– Students, Faculty, and Administrators

– Business and Community Leaders

– State Agencies

– Nonprofits and Faith-Based Organizations

– Professional Development Conferences

Interested in hosting a simulation for your class, workplace, conference, or house of worship?

Contact Manisha Mishra  of Alabama Possible at 205.939.1408 or mmishra@alabamapossible.org

Missouri CAN logoThe Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS)—an interactive, immersion experience— is owned by the Missouri Community Action Network. The simulation provides a glimpse into the structural barriers of poverty to transform participants’ perspectives about their own communities. These transformed perspectives inspire action toward positive community change. If you are interested in learning more about the Community Action Poverty Simulation or purchasing a CAPS kit license, please visit communityaction.org or povertysimulation.net