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Tipping the Scales

An interactive game shows how community choices can build resilience in the face of hardship
Building a Resilient Community

In life, it’s a given: bad things happen. But in the face of challenge — whether sudden and temporary or ingrained and chronic — adults can make choices that help protect children and bolster communities. Positive experiences and strong adult relationships foster resilience, which counters the weight of hardship and helps to dampen its power to create lasting negative outcomes.

In a vivid (and fun) demonstration of how choices can help build resilience in children and communities, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has created an online game called Tipping the Scales. Building on the notion of resilience as a scale or a seesaw, where protective experiences and adaptive skills on one side help to balance out adversity on the other, the game lets players trace the consequences of policy and personal decisions.

Al Race: It can be hartd to see how the decisions we make as a community make a difference in the biology of people.
Designed as an exercise for practitioners — community and nonprofit leaders, clinicians, social workers, and educators, among others — the game provides an allotment of “resilience bucks” that players use to tip as many children’s scales as possible toward positive outcomes. All the while, players are contending with negative events that can happen at any time.

At the end of the game, players can interact with the scale more directly, exploring what happens when they add or subtract positive and negative weights or move the fulcrum on the resilience scale. 

“There’s a lot of science behind this game,” says Al Race, deputy director and chief knowledge officer at the Center on the Developing Child. “But it can be hard to see how the decisions we make as a community make a difference in the biology of people. We hope the game provides a fun way for people to really engage and see those connections.”

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