2023 Annual Report

Leaping over boundaries

From a narrow focus on live-action learning to a mission of building resilience through fun. From testing ideas to delivering impactful trainings. From a passionate few to a coordinated team. 2023 was a year of leaping over boundaries.

Entering new waters

It is incredibly rewarding to witness the impact of our work first-hand: Seeing the spark of joy in individuals ignites a fire in our hearts. Hearing them walk away with concrete actions in mind warms our souls. But, our true reward is witnessing them discover the collective strength of community. After all, an empowered community is a prepared community, and a prepared community is a resilient one.

Personally, I am deeply honored that so many people — our dedicated team, our loyal supporters, and our hard-working community partners — are transforming my initial vision into a shared mission that will empower communities to face any challenge. As an inveterate boundary-crosser, I will leap over any boundaries needed to support our mission and our communities. Even if it means swimming across the Golden Gate. Again!

We start 2024 by crossing another major boundary — going from fiscal sponsorship to an independent 501(c)3 organization.

Join us as we explore a brave new world of replacing fear with fun.
— Susanne Jul, Founder & Executive Director

Susanne in wetsuit with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

2023 in numbers


New learning experiences

We developed 3 new learning experiences.

What were they?
  • Wildfire Board Game: Designed for single households, this game became a hit at community events, sparking crucial conversations about preparedness and prompting participants to take action.
  • Wildfire Café Game: This group game focuses on building social resilience and neighborhood cooperation during wildfires.
  • Preparedness Puzzles: A series of short, online puzzles keep disaster preparedness at the forefront of people’s minds in a fun and interactive way.

Community events

We offered learning experiences at 11 different community events.

Where were we?
  • 4/11, Napa CA, Preparedness fair
  • 4/29, Calistoga CA, Preparedness fair
  • 5/6, Healdsburg CA, Preparedness fair
  • 5/12, Napa CA, Preparedness fair
  • 5/19, St Helena CA, Preparedness fair
  • 5/2, San Rafael, Preparedness fair
  • 7/2, Cloverdale CA, Kiwanis Club meeting
  • 7/27, St Helena CA, Game night (public library)
  • 8/21, Napa CA, Game night (independent living community)
  • 9/27, Sonoma CA, Wildfire Leadership Conference
  • 9/29, St Helena CA, Preparedness fair

Game plays

We played at least 151 individual games.

How do we count?

The heart of the game board is a removable sheet of paper. During the game, we mark up the front side to track what challenges players face and what choices they make. After the game, they get to take it away as a souvenir and reminder of their decisions. (The back side has additional information about us and about wildfire preparedness.)

So each game starts with a fresh sheet on the board. Each pile of extra sheets is held down with a jar of coins — pennies for English, nickels for Spanish:

Two small jars with coins, each sitting on a stack of paper

When we pull a new sheet for the board, we move a coin from that jar to a counting jar. At the end of the day, we determine the number of games played by counting the coins in the counting jar.

We’re mostly consistent, but know that we occasionally miss moving a coin when we get really busy.


Counting Café Games is simpler: The game is played in groups of 4-8, so we simply count the number of groups playing each time through.


Individual participants

We played with at least 346 different people.

How do we count?

With participants’ permission, we take a picture of them after every game. Of course, not everyone wants their picture taken, and we sometimes forget. But we always get enough pictures that we can use the average number of people in them as an approximation for the average number of people playing at an event.

2 people smiling

We then multiply the average number of players per game with the number of games we played at that event to get a reasonable estimate of how many individuals participated.


Days of learning

In all, we delivered 4.7 days (or 113 hours) of learning!

What does that mean?

By “learning time,” we mean the collective time people spent learning. If we have two people playing a game that takes 15 minutes, we count that as 30 minutes of learning time.

We’re too busy to track the actual duration of each game, so we use an estimate of the average duration of a game. Occasionally, we’ll measure a game and have found that games are pretty consistent, and that measured times align pretty closely with facilitators’ estimates.

The one twist is that not everyone plays the game to completion — most often because very young children lose interest. We offer all players the opportunity to break off about half way through the game, and these “partial” games are also of pretty consistent duration. Fortunately, there are few enough partial games that they are memorable, “that woman who got a phone call and had to go,” “the two little kids who just timed out.” So, while we do our best to track the number of partial games, facilitators can give us a reliable count at the end of the day.

We then calculate learning time from the number of full/partial games played, the average duration of a full/partial game, and the average number of players per game.

While this is an approximation, we’re confident that errors are on the side of underestimation.


Total cost

The total cost of our programs and services was $97,962.

Cost break down

Programs – 96.9%

  • Materials: 0.7%
  • Travel: 0.8%
  • Staff: 95.4%*

Overhead – 3.1%

  • Tools & services: 1.5%
  • Staff: 1.6%*

*We aren’t paying any staff yet, so all staff costs are calculated using the average value of a volunteer hour of $31.80, as estimated by Independent Sector.


Combined revenue

We received a total of $103,890 in cash and in-kind donations.

Revenue break down
  • Cash: 8.5%
  • Volunteer hours: 91.5%*

*Using the average value of a volunteer hour of $31.80, as estimated by Independent Sector.


2023 in words and pictures

2023 was an exciting year for us.

Early in the year, we were invited to participate in a wildfire preparedness fair by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association. Recognizing that our highly effective live-action workshops can be time-consuming for both facilitators and participants, we challenged ourselves to develop a rapid learning experience with lower barriers to entry.

This approach proved transformative for us and for the people we serve!

Wildfire Board Game

We set ourselves the goal of designing a learning experience that met the following objectives:

Hand drawn illustration showing someone walking up to a fair booth with curiosity, having fun at the booth, and walking away with a sense of interest and satisfaction.

In 5-15 minutes, invite curiosity, incite one Aha!, and convert interest into: * Motivation to take one action to improve household preparedness * Inspiration to engage in preparedness * Love of CCL’s conceptual approach to preparedness education * Trust in CCL’s ability to deliver on promises.

and aimed to serve these audiences:

Hand drawn illustration with characteristics of Adults and Families.

Target participants are adults, or adults accompanied by children, who: *Are attending a community event in order to get information and enjoy a stimulating hour or two * Are concerned about home and/or workplace preparedness * View preparedness with dread and lack of enthusiasm * May have been evacuated, and may have experienced personal loss, because of wildfire

After consulting with our educational game design experts, we developed the Wildfire Board Game.

This board game is played by one or more members of a household, and takes players through an entire wildfire experience, starting with an evacuation warning or order, going through 2-6 weeks of being evacuated, and ending with the first 3 days after being allowed back. After playing the game, players have thought through a basic evacuation and return plan for *their* household, and have learned about the major risks and most important best practices for wildfire preparedness.

The game was an immediate success! Even in the first playthrough, it sparked much discussion and enthusiasm in players, and everyone walked away motivated to take care of one of their preparedness concerns when they got home.

Here are some our first players at that first Grapegrowers’ event:

Three adults pointing and talking about a board game with a prize wheel in the background.

Eddy Gomez and colleagues from the Town of Yountville enjoy a brisk conversation occasioned by playing the game.

The exposure and connections from that first event led to more invites to more events, which, in turn, led to more invites. In the end, we attended 10 events, and played 145 games with at least 296 members of the public. That adds up to 93 hours of individual thinking and learning!

The game design evolved between events, and we quickly started offering both English and Spanish versions:

Board game with labels in both English and Spanish.

The game board is bilingual, takeaways are language-specific.

Without exception, everyone who plays the game becomes engaged and is excited. Players not only wax enthusiastic about what they can do to prepare for wildfire but also praise the game. Here are some of their comments:

“This is great! I’m a retired firefighter, and it’s even making me think. I learned something!”

— Scott T. Parkhurst, retired firefighter

“We were talking about you all week! ‘Itʼs the coolest thing, you learn if youʼre really prepared.ʼ”

— Christine McMillan, Napa District Attorneyʼs Office

“The game works well with challenge tiles setting up both the likely actions a family might take, along with likely outcomes with a degree of chance built in making it a fun interactive experience for all ages.”

— Roberta MacIntyre, Fire Safe Sonoma, former Sonoma County Fire Marshal

“I think this kind of training is the way of the future. We’re past the point of pdfs and PowerPoints.”

— Jonathan Niksa, Napa Fire Safe Council

We designed the game for adults, incorporating sophisticated concepts and learning objectives. But we have happily discovered that children are captivated by it, and frequently impress us with their deep interest, curiosity and understanding.

The game, with its cute little game pieces, is sometimes taken to be a children’s activity. We have even had to ask to be relocated from a “kid’s fun zone.” Nonetheless, we often find that adults are quickly drawn in when their children start engaging. Especially, when a child turns to a parent for answers, such as, “Mom, do we have go-bags packed?”:

Three young children facing a table playing a board game with woman looking interestedly at game contents.

Children pull adults into the game.

Booth traffic attests to the game’s success in attracting attention and getting engagement. People spend 15-30 minutes at our booth, and we often have people waiting to play.

We are typically busy for the whole time of an event, and often longer. The numbers bear this out: Across the 10 events, all our game boards are in play approximately 75% of the time of the event. If we eliminate poorly-attended events (as assessed by vendors and confirmed by organizers), we play at capacity: Our boards are busy 98% of the time! Regardless of attendance numbers, we have yet to be able to pack up when the event is supposed to end, and are always the last to leave:

People standing at a table at an outdoor booth playing a game with an nearly empty parking lot in the background.

Still educating the public after others go home.

Here is a quick compilation video to give you a sense of an event:

Café Game

But we didn’t stop with a successful board game.

One of the invites we received was to provide edutainment at a Kiwanis Club breakfast meeting.

Obviously, the single-household board game wouldn’t work for a 1-hour group event. Instead, we sought to create a game that could engage a group of people at once.

Enter the Wildfire Café Game.

Like the Board Game, the Café Game takes players through a wildfire. But where the Board Game emphasizes thinking about household preparedness, the Café Game stresses social resilience and talking about how neighbors would work together. Players sit in groups of 4-8, imagining that they are part of a neighborhood. The challenges the game poses are designed to be solvable only through cooperation among neighbors, or even across neighborhoods.

Here’s what one “neighborhood” looked like:

People sitting at a café table, talking with paper with drawings and pebbles in front of them.

Neighbors puzzle over what they need, and how they can help their neighbors

We played six simultaneous games at the Kiwanis club breakfast. The game was extremely well received, with all thirty participants expressing their enthusiasm and appreciation for the insights they gained:

“[I] learned a lot of stuff. This was awesome!”

“It was very well done and fun!”

“I am going home and prepare a go-bag for myself and my dog. Thank you for the great advice!!”

Disaster Preparedness Puzzles

Then, for our 2023 Holiday Calendar offering, we decided to experiment with very short learning experiences that would be interesting, engaging and fun.

We created a series of nine small puzzles, each intended to bring attention to one piece of disaster preparedness information. We posted these on our website, to our mailing list, and on LinkedIn.

People have responded very enthusiastically, and ask for more puzzles as well as for more challenging puzzles. This was the most visited puzzle of the series:

Image with scrambled text: 5 Pests of Dirseats Management. ervnept, gitameit, repepra, prondse, everroc

Word scramble: The 5 Pests of Dirseats Mangemeant.

Cultivating Volunteers & Partners

In addition to growing our learning program, we expanded our team.

We met Robin Parvin when she played the Board Game in Healdsburg. She was so inspired by it that she has joined us as a community trainer.

Lindsay Burr, one of our advisors, stepped up her involvement and is now the Chair of our founding board.

We also added three new advisors: Claus Raasted, an expert in innovation and audience engagement, Gary Milante, an expert in behavioral economics and games, and Luke Beckman, an expert in disaster community preparedness.

Here’s the Learning Team (aka Team Ducky) in action:

Three people in Hawaiian shirts holding out their feet with oversized duck slippers on

Making disaster preparedness fun!

Our success at getting people’s attention and keeping them engaged got the attention of other organizations. Over the course of the year, we developed a strong relationship with Napa Valley COAD, and connected with several other organizations in the North Bay disaster community.

Sharing Knowledge & Raising Funds

While most of our resources were occupied with getting people excited about disaster preparedness, we didn’t neglect other important areas.

Garett, our design lead, attended After the Fire’s 2023 Wildfire Leadership Summit, where he spoke with many in the wildfire community. During breaks, he and Robin offered attendees a chance to play the board game.

We continued our Research Roundtable series with another Roundtable conversation on Leadership Studies & Role-playing Games. This led to organizing a panel at the International Leadership Association‘s annual conference (a follow-up to our ILA roundtable in 2022).

Our Founder, Susanne, presented at the 2023 Hero Roundtable conference, drawing on her 2017 Hurricane Harvey research to highlight the vital role of daily actions in developing the mindset needed to rise to heroic action in a crisis. (She’s happy to report hearing ripples of her talk at the conference and in subsequent LinkedIn posts!)

Lastly, we raised $7806 in a fundraising campaign inspired by Susanne taking on the challenge of swimming across the Golden Gate:

2024 priorities

We aim to use the momentum we gathered in 2023 to jump higher and further in 2024. Our goals are,


Increase our ability to grow our impact by focusing on organizational and business development.

  • Become an independent 501(c)3. Among other things, this will allow us to apply for government grants.
  • Develop partnerships and active collaborations in Napa/Sonoma so that we can reach more people and open funding opportunities.
  • Recruit volunteers at all levels, from board members to community trainers.
  • Cultivate a wider variety of funders and revenue sources.

Deepen our impact by evolving and expanding our learning experiences.

  • Mature our current community experiences, and our Think – Talk – Do product model: Short learning experiences (Holiday puzzles, Board game) that aim to get people to Think about disaster preparedness, more elaborate experiences (Café game) that get them to Talk about it, and full-on experiences (Live action workshops) that get them to Do something about it.
  • Develop Train-the-trainer experiences for our current community experiences.
  • Adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of our partners and their communities.

Measure our impact by taking steps toward a systematic and rigorous evaluation program.

  • Develop research instruments that reliably measure learning and behavioral change.
  • Explore data collection methods that yield effective response rates without disrupting learning experiences or swaying behaviors.
  • Gather and analyze data to assess the short-term impact of our current learning experiences.

Continue to have an impact.

  • Bring our learning experiences to more community events,
  • Foster knowledge exchange among researchers and professionals, and
  • Seize opportunities to promote understanding of social resilience, community empowerment and disaster preparedness.

With heartfelt gratitude


Susanne Jul
Garett Dworman
Zach Pipkin


Gary Milante
Robin Parvin
Lindsay Burr


Aaron Vanek
Anonymous — You know who you are!
Claus Raasted
Corinna Lu, Zoe Dworman & Ari Dworman
Erin Zimmerman
Ford Johnson
George Furnas
Kirsten Olson
Leland Franklin
Maurita Holland
Patti Fry
Peggy & Walter Bourg
Susan Drucker Hunsaker
Susan Juhl
Susan Wolfe

See others who helped to enable and empower us on the
2023 Wall of Gratitude.

Our mission

We use experiential learning, games and fun to help individuals and communities prepare to be unprepared, but empowered.

Because communities who act together recover faster.

And fun is more motivating than fear!


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