Better Living Challenge: the quest to find sustainable solutions that improve living conditions

The the Better Living Challenge has been launched this month in a quest to find sustainable solutions in South Africa to improve living conditions in low-income households. The Challenge, which is part of the Western Cape Government’s 110% Green initiative is offering R500 000 of support for each of the three competition winner to take their idea to market, and a R40 000 cash prize for student solutions. The solutions should be innovative, affordable and use green technology and have a positive environmental impact.

better living challenge

The rollout will be project managed by the Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI), an organisation established in 2001 to promote and grow the economic sustainability of the Western Cape craft and design sector. This competition is one of seven CCDI projects selected for the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 (WDC2014) programme.

CCDI Executive Director Erica Elk said, “Millions of South Africans live in dire conditions in informal settlements, backyard shacks and RDP houses. The need is much greater than the capacity and resources of government to deliver…We need to find solutions for home improvements that are affordable, result in better living conditions and quality of life, and provide people with the choices and resources to help themselves at their own pace. There are many needs and also many opportunities.”

The competition will be rolled out in three phases, said Elk.

  • Entries of new or existing prototypes and products can be submitted from 1 March-31 May (www.betterlivingchallenge.co.za). During this period the CCDI will host three co-design workshops, bringing together designers and users to explore areas of need. Selection of the finalists will take place from June-August, followed by a showcase (September- November) displaying the best home improvement solutions. This interactive space will enable user testing, feedback and judging. The public will be invited to vote for their favourite solutions.
  • Winners will be announced in November 2014 and will receive tailored business and product support, starting next year (2015). Assistance could include coaching, business consulting, legal services, prototyping, market research, graphic design and more.

There are three entry categories:

  1. Structural home: Innovative products and materials to construct safe, sustainable homes. This could include components and systems for new, self-built homes, or systems that add bulk to an existing footprint in an affordable way. Fire-proofing, sanitation and flooding are key challenges that could be addressed.
  2. Comfortable home: Products used to create enjoyable interiors. These could be affordable modular and space-saving furniture ranges; products that enhance temperature control and light, energy and water efficiencies; and systems offering privacy within multi-purpose spaces.
  3. Connected home: This category calls for products and services that connect a home to its surroundings and beyond, digitally or physically. They could include food production and waste water systems, for example.

Elk called on tertiary institutions to support the competition, “Lecturers could encourage their students to channel their expertise into this vital sector. They could base a design brief on the Challenge, with cross-disciplinary teams from various departments working together.”

Jenny Cargill, who leads 110% Green, said, “The Challenge differs from the usual design contests. It encompasses innovative marketing to test consumer acceptance of the designs and products on show, hopes to encourage financial institutions to provide new financial products to support self-improvement, and follow-up business support to award winning manufacturers and designers in the subsequent year.”

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