Using Poverty Simulation to Better Understand Marginalized Communities

April 24, 2019

A participant experiences a poverty simulation hosted by the Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice. The yellow ribbon signifies electronic monitoring.

BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois staff recently participated in a poverty simulation presented by the Adler University Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice.

The simulation model “is an accessible way for people to gain a much deeper understanding into realities that are not their own,” said Elena Quintana, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Institute. “This sensitizes all participants about the devastating impacts that policies that promote social exclusion have on our whole society. Additionally, simulations emphasize the need for all of us to be a part of the solution.”

The Institute has developed two of these simulations to help people understand the experiences of marginalization. This one was an exploration of income inequality, so BlueCross BlueShield staff could better understand the experiences of many of the customers they serve. The other simulation emphasizes the barriers and challenges faced by people reentering society after incarceration. Both allow groups to take part in an interactive experience that promotes discussion and a need for solutions to important problems.

The experience evoked a lot of new thinking for the 89 BlueCross BlueShield leaders who participated in the simulations, spread over a week in October 2018. They said it encouraged them to try to take on the viewpoint of those who are impacted before making decisions and to be conscious of their personal biases.

Participants reported feeling increased respect and empathy for marginalized individuals, as well as a need to utilize their position to address some of the social barriers these people face. The experience gave them a new perspective on issues of inequity that exist for marginalized populations. “These problems are very real and right under our noses,” one participant said.