Better Living Challenge


Better Living Challenge 2

The BLC 2 follows a cooperative model approach rooted in collaboration and participation, rather than a competition format, as was the case for the BLC 1. Incremental upgrading of informal settlements is the focus of the current iteration which is funded by the Western Cape Departments of Human Settlements and Economic Development and Tourism. At its core, the BLC is a problem-solving process. With the end-user at the centre, it seeks to raise awareness, share knowledge, and incubate ideas and processes.

A new approach

BLC 2 follows a design thinking and problem-solving process base on understanding end users’ needs, co-creating solutions, and bringing together people from diverse disciplines to find new ways of tackling tough problems. This approach required a clear understanding of end user needs, challenges and aspirations. It also requires interdisciplinary teams to collaborate through a series of divergent and convergent thinking processes. Importantly, the end user research process for BLC 2 followed a cycle of continuous iteration – an approach similar to the design thinking framework. The researchers continuously reflected on their engagement with stakeholders by creating opportunities for sharing and feedback. Design thinking is a theoretical and practical framework for tackling complex challenges. The framework takes practitioners through six stages of exploring (diverging) and refining (converging), and includes engaging, immersing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.

Take me there: Needs Analysis Phase of BLC 2.

Objectives of BLC 2

The aim of BLC 2 is to to have greater impact on the lives of people living in informal settlements and be based on end user needs while embracing the notion of ‘dweller as designer’. It explores the abundance gaps within the informal housing sector, offers an opportunity to innovators, entrepreneurs and enterprises located within informal settlements, and makes the most of new collaborative possibilities between sectors.

  • Discovering and defining the landscape of incremental upgrading;
  • Identifying opportunity areas, and defining an approach to implementation and developing partnerships;
  • Implementing and testing the ways of complimenting and enhancing existing projects and innovations (through collaboration, co-creation and partnerships); and
  • Establishing mechanisms to showcase learnings in the public domain.


In the development phase the BLC will collaborate with the network of community-based organisations (CBOs) and NGOs who were consulted during the research process, and who are dedicated to better living, to add value to projects and processes.


  • A needs analysis resource in order to better understand the existing needs of people living in informal settlements, in relation to incremental upgrading of informal homes.
  • Eco-system mapping of the value-chain in the informal housing sector including second hand building material journey and supply chain, customer journey mapping of the upgrading process and the mapping of access to credit.
  • Toolkits (for visual and spatial literacy and passive design) for upgrading stakeholders to effectively communicate to end users about what they can do to upgrade and also how they can go about doing this.
  • Prototyping a design and building skills development incubation programme for design and building service providers that service the informal settlement upgrading sector who want to be equipped with adequate business or design skills.
  • A Better Living Resource including an interactive website and critical knowledge exchange events as a legacy of the BLC, and a knowledge sharing platform (Work in Progress).
  • In parallel, there will be ongoing stakeholder engagement with contractors, material providers, all those with an incentive to increase availability of housing finance, CBOs and NGOs, relevant government officials, and the broader community of informal home dwellers.