The Better Living Challenge
Involved citizens is one of the strategic objectives of the Western Cape Design Strategy. This objective aims to create public awareness and appreciation of the value of design in every aspect of our lives, in particular towards socio-economic upliftment and a better quality of life for all.
Why innovation challenges?
There many integrated approaches and projects aimed to improve the environmental, economic and social health of our communities and cities, but somehow finding relevant, context specific interventions is difficult for our local context. In response, organisations and policy makers are searching for better ways to identify and accelerate novel solutions tapping into an ecosystem of potential innovators who possess wide-ranging skills and knowledge. To discover and attract these contributors, organizations are using public challenges as a tool to garner innovative solutions.
Public Challenges provide an excellent vehicle for identifying a large number of early-stage opportunities, fast-tracking the development of the best ideas and building communities in emerging areas.
The Better Living Challenge
The Better Living Challenge (BLC) is a five-year project (broken up into two challenges, BLC 1 (2013/2014) and BLC 2 (2017/2018) aimed at surfacing design innovation in the low-income housing market, to contribute to improving the living conditions of low-income households, and supporting the commercialization of viable solutions.
An official project of the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 (WDC2014) programme, BLC1 was run in partnership with 110% Green, a programme of the Department of the Premier, and the Department of Human Settlements. BLC1 called upon manufacturers, designers, inventors and entrepreneurs to design new solutions that meet the needs of the low-income home improvement market. Entrants we encouraged to submit ideas in three categories: Structural Home, Comfortable Home, and Connected Home. Submissions included building materials, low-carbon products, water capturing and drainage systems, fire-safety products (particularly for shack dwellings) and interior items for storage and comfort.
The BLC was effective in that it prompted diversity in participation which generated a wider variety and greater number of solutions. Over 130 applicants entered and three winners were awarded a grand prize of half a million rand’s worth of support services to enable them to upscale and take their solutions to market – facilitating the concept-to-market value chain.
The BLC is a good example of an innovation challenge model that combines seed capital, early-stage partnerships and other “open innovation” approaches. All three winners of the BLC 1 have done extremely well in their product to market journey to date.
In the Structural Home category – USE-IT Compressed Earth Blocks (CEBs), now branded Rambrick (an innovative process that uses a 30% blend of builder’s waste rubble and available clay-bearing soils in the manufacture of bricks for building sustainable homes with a low carbon footprint) have already established a pilot project in Stellenbosch and are producing bricks, at scale for market consumption. They were also awarded the Gold Award for Recycling and Waste Management at the Eco-Logic Awards for 2015.
In the Comfortable Home category – Lumkani (a low-cost fire detector and alert system designed for low-income households), have over 5000 units already sold with pilot projects being run in many informal settlements around the peninsula.
In the Connected Home category – Cityspec (an open source mobile inspection tool which helps civil society organisations and community workers to monitor and administer basic service delivery in informal settlements), are well into their Cost Benefit Analysis with a real-time monitoring project in place in Monwabisi Park.
Building on the success of BLC1, the Department of Human Settlements together with the Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism have supported a six-month research process to inform the framing of BLC2.
The themes to be explored in the BLC2 are “Embracing informality and enabling incrementalism” in informal settlement upgrading. The focus of this three-year project will be to surface design innovations (opportunities, ideas and designs) that:
- support the incremental improvement/ expansion of low-income homes
- provide better quality and alternative building materials
- increase the comfort and quality of life of residents
- enable a more densified urban form
For more information on the BLC challenge, winners and plans for 2016 see www.betterlivingchallenge.co.za
Facebook – The Better Living Challenge
Twitter – @TheBLChallenge