Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS)


The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) was developed by the Missouri Community Action Network as a tool to understand poverty in an experiential setting. Participants assume the role of a family member or a community agency to simulate the daily challenges and stresses of poverty.

The BGSU Center for Public Impact (CPI) purchased a CAPS kit in 2018 from the Missouri Community Action Network. The BGSU CPI promotes the mission of the Missouri Community Action Network and the mission of Bowling Green State University by building partnerships with on and off campus entities through the work of CAPS.

What is CAPS?

  • Provides participants with an opportunity to walk a mile in the shoes of those facing poverty.
  • Provides participants the opportunity to assume the role of a low-income family member.
  • CAPS bridges the gap from misconception to understanding through experiential learning.
  • Sensitizes community participants to the realities of poverty.
  • It is a simulation, not a game.

How does CAPS work?

  • The participants assume the roles of up to 26 different “families” living in poverty. These families range from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security. The task of the families is to provide for basic necessities and shelter for one “month,” consisting of four fifteen-minute “weeks.”
  • The simulation is conducted in a large room with the "families" seated in groups in the center, and around the perimeter are tables representing community resources and services for the families.
  • These services include a bank, super center, Community Action Agency, employer, utility company, pawn broker, grocery, social service agency, faith-based agency, payday and title loan facility, mortgage company, school, and child care center.
  • The simulation lasts approximately three hours. It includes an introduction and briefing, the actual simulation exercise, and a debriefing period in which participants and volunteer vendors share their feelings and experiences.
  • Participants work together with the other participants in their family to navigate the simulation by interacting with other families and community resources.
Example Seating Chart

Who can participate in CAPS?

If you are interested in hosting a poverty simulation, some ideas about what types of organizations can participate in the simulation:

  • Students from Campus Course(s)
  • Student Organizations
  • Community Organizations
  • Health Care Professionals
  • Staff and Faculty
  • Social Service Providers
  • Elected Officials
  • Management Staff
  • Corporations
  • And more!

What is necessary to host a poverty simulation?

Download Requirements Document

If you are interested in finding out more, contact us by emailing

For more information on the Missouri Community Action Network or if you would like to purchase your own kit, please visit their site: