Making Ends Meet

Making Ends Meet Poverty Simulator



The Ask

Empathy is created in many ways; by volunteering or by going to school or living with people from diverse backgrounds. Sometimes it is difficult to see life from a perspective outside of your own if these opportunities are not a part of your daily life. Heart of West Michigan United Way tasked Well with exploring and creating a web-based tool that told the story of poverty in Kent County so that its residents may continue to build empathy for families in more dire situations than their own.

Our Solution

We worked with the staff and stakeholders at HWMUW to develop a web-based app. This app is designed in a “choose your own adventure” storytelling format and illustrates the day-to-day experience of living in poverty. This approach allows the user to take their own journey and make some of the difficult decisions that thousands of individuals and families living in poverty have to make every day.

Educating with Emotive Design

Poverty affects people of all ages, genders and races, so our characters were chosen with intention and a focus on diversity. Users may choose an experience similar to their own or branch out and see life through the eyes of someone less familiar. No matter the choice, users are presented with positive and negative life events that aim to imitate life and the real financial outcomes that result from the decisions they make.


Carissa is a single mother to her 8 year old son, Mika.


Anthony is a younger guy excited to carve out his own path in the big city.

Kara + Eric

Kara and Eric are a small family with two children, living in the city.

Sandra + Ed

Sandra and Ed are a senior couple with an empty nest and retirement stress.

In the Media

We helped Heart of West Michigan United Way spread the message of their new tool through various media appearances, resulting in recognition across Michigan.