Case Studies



A board game used as a research instrument to test the resilience of microfinance groups in rural Africa.


The Problem:
Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) are microfinance organizations that operate at the village level. Researchers at BRACED needed a research instrument to help measure the role that VSLAs have in resilience-building for agro-pastoral subsistence communities. Specifically, researchers needed to know if VSLAs helped communities become more resilient to various shocks (e.g. long droughts or the inability to work because of an injury).

Shock is board game and impact evaluation instrument that is easily played in rural areas. The game is semi-cooperative, and simulates a farming community that sustains various shocks over a period of several years. Players can choose from adaptive strategies. How they play the game and prepare for shocks demonstrates their resilience.

The game was deployed successfully in 2016 in Niger and in 2017 in Ethiopia. The accompanying study showed that VSLAs reinforce and strengthen existing informal support networks, empower female members, and promote sustainable agricultural practices. The findings will be used to refine and guide the deployment of future microfinancing groups in the region.

Additional Resources:
BRACED Report: Implementing innovative methodologies to measure resilience in Niger ODI Report: How Self Help Groups Strengthen Resilience



A physical game that engages members of the Red Cross Red Crescent around flood preparedness.

Partners: Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre

The Problem:
The majority of the world’s cities are vulnerable to floods, and most people do not have a plan in place to safely shelter or evacuate. Even in the developed world, a changing climate will cause more frequent and severe floods.. The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre needed a game that would engage local RCRC society members in focused conversations about planning and preparing for floods.

SURE! is played by 10+ people in a room where paper cards are placed on the floor to represent a community. Players must first prepare for an imminent flood by distributing resources to buildings in the community they wish to protect before time runs out. Then, a flood is simulated. After that, there is a round where the players get to make a plan of action before the flood to protect themselves and vulnerable people in the community. In the second round, players learn that planning and organization greatly improve outcomes in flood situations.

Additional Resources:
Download Game Here



An Alternate Reality Game (ARG) played on Slack. This game is a research instrument to measure the adaptability of teams.

Partners: DARPA, Northeastern University

The Problem:
Understanding how people coalesce and adapt to problems is incredibly important for organizations that need to build teams. Currently there is no way to measure how teams adapt outside of a laboratory setting.

This week-long game pits small teams of players against each other in a race to solve puzzles over Slack and in the real world. In essence this is a very difficult text based “escape the room.” The game uses text, images, and video to tell the story of Daedalus, a problem-solving AI that the players must train by solving puzzles. Each puzzle was designed based on foundational research and human-centered design to maximize uncertainty and provide real, measurable results.