Better Living Challenge


Mapping Project explores the key systems for upgrading informal homes

Aug 23, 2017


Since the launch of the Better Living Challenge (BLC) 2 at the end of June, the BLC team has been working hard on one of its first projects, which explores, via various mapping methods, the following three key systems:

  1. The upgrading process and journey;
  2. The second-hand building material journey; and
  3. The micro-finance options for upgrading.

The reason for focussing on these three systems above, is largely as a result of the findings of the user-needs which were identified as part of the BLC’s Needs Analysis Research, conducted during 2016, and which identified these three main areas for further research and understanding.

In addition, the research findings highlighted not only the need for further research into these three existing systems in order to fill in the gaps, but also highlighted the need to identify opportunity areas and challenges within each system.


The BLC’s approach is one of collaboration and co-designing with end-users and stakeholders, in order to problem solve. The BLC also strives to show the value of design-led processes in action. As a result, this specific Mapping Project aims to show the value of using design-led/ visual mapping processes, such as stakeholder mapping, value chain mapping, customer journey mapping and persona development, in order to visually communicate complex systems or ideas in a simple and effective manner.

At the end of this Mapping Project in September, the BLC team hopes to have obtained the necessary knowledge about the different systems and will be producing a set of strategic recommendations, addressing the opportunities and challenges identified in each of the three systems.

The knowledge gained through this project will also be informing future BLC projects and activities.


Mapping the upgrading process:

This project stream documents the different existing upgrading processes of the different end-users who live in the various types of informal dwellings identified (including backyard timber houses, self-built shacks, newly bought shacks, disaster kit housing, as well as the new incremental development area housing).

Interviews will be conducted and typical customer journeys of each type of informal dwelling will be developed in order to understand the decisions made and upgrading processes followed by the different end-users in the various types of informal dwellings identified.

Mapping of the second hand building material journey:

This project stream places the different types of informal dwellings (including backyard timber houses, self-built shacks, newly bought shacks, disaster kit housing, as well as the new incremental development area housing) at the core of the mapping process, investigating the various materials used by the homeowners/ dwellers – with a focus on second hand building materials, and follows the journey of each material used, starting at the home and tracing the journey followed, all the way to its source.

The value chain map generated will highlight certain patterns and trends as well as highlight opportunity areas.  This will inform the agenda for focussed workshops with industry stakeholders and experts who have an interest in unlocking the value of the second hand building material network.

Mapping of micro-finance options for the upgrading of informal dwellings:

This project stream will map out the different micro-finance options available for upgrading, building on the ecosystem mapping research conducted by Kaiser Economic Development Partners during 2016, as well as the following three recommended areas for further exploration:

  • Provide support for affordable material access / non-cash finance;
  • Improving the functioning of informal finance products, and linking to knowledge and capacity building around incremental housing (Including stokvels, community saving schemes, peer-to-peer lending, informal instalment transfers/transactions, informal employer loans); and
  • Provide support to contractors, small-scale landlords and developers, as well as accessing enterprise and supplier development funds that can indirectly help to increase affordability and quality for end-users.