Who we are

Who is DAG
The Development Action Group (DAG), established in 1986, is a leading South African non-governmental, not for profit organisation focused on urban development and housing issues. Since its inception, the Development Action Group (DAG) has worked to create equal, inclusive, and sustainable neighbourhoods and cities through development processes that foster human rights, equity, and dignity. Operating from the conviction that empowered citizens must actively drive their own development, DAG’s efforts are rooted in a participative and democratic approach to advancing socio-economic rights and spatial justice through collective action in South African cities. DAG’s impact in the urban sector over the years can be attributed to the organisation’s role in unlocking the development of approximately 8000 new low-cost housing opportunities; facilitating improved security of tenure for 27,000 people; providing direct assistance in securing community services to over 100 000 households in over 85 projects; securing and unlocking R275 million for housing projects; and strengthening the capacity of more than 2,100 civic leaders, with a focus on women and youth.

When DAG was founded, we spent our formative years working with poor communities who were invisible to government and society at large. Now, 36 years later, we find ourselves facing a different struggle - no longer against an oppressive government, but one who has lost the meaning of “nothing about us, without us"

dag goals

Through five programmes that target contractors and micro-developers, community-based organisations, informal settlement residents and key state officials, to name a few, DAG delivers sustainable, nuanced, and multifaceted impact toward the realisation of the right to access safe and affordable housing opportunities.

These five programmes are all geared to achieving the following six strategic outcomes over the short to medium term:

  • Increased public and private delivery of affordable and accessible housing
  • Active community participation and co-production of integrated and inclusive neighbourhoods
  • Increased social investment to realise spatial justice
  • Well capacitated communities, local authorities and civil society actors that grow their agency to co-lead development projects
  • Communities that effectively engage local key stakeholders in both the private and government sectors
  • Communities that inform development projects through participatory processes
DAG’s programmes aim to achieve our organisational goal of Inclusive and equitable cities realised for dispossessed communities through active citizenry.
DAG Approaches

At the heart of our work is an appreciation of community organising and activism. DAG employs six key approaches in the implementation of our programmes.


DAG works in a collaborative and participatory manner with a range of community-based organisations, academics, non-government organisations, developers, and government officials to develop and implement joint advocacy programmes and initiatives. This has been enabled through high levels of mutual respect and trust between partners. DAG has supported numerous emerging and existing community-based coalitions and networks in Cape Town in their efforts to collectively develop and implement joint advocacy strategies around informal settlements, homelessness, and land. DAG has also entered into various strategic partnerships to deliver on multiyear programmes including: the Backyard Matters Initiative in partnership with the Isandla Institute; the Asivikelane Campaign (Western Cape) in partnership with the International Budget Partnership, and the National Land Value Capture Programme in partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and National Treasury’s City Support Programme. In addition, DAG is also a member of further international networks, including the UN Habitat Global Land Tool Network and Habitat International Coalition.

Coalitions, networks, and partnerships


DAG provides socio-technical support at a neighbourhood and city-wide scale, which includes providing ad-hoc and tailored support to community-based organisations located in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Over the last three years DAG has provided socio-technical support to 28 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) from across Cape Town in their struggle to unlock land, improve access to basic services and implement joint advocacy strategies. Several communities are making strides in their advocacy for access to land and housing.

Socio-technical support


DAG has a long and extensive track record of demonstrating best practice projects in partnership with communities, micro-developers and the state in the delivery of housing, basic services and land tenure. In 2013, DAG facilitated the construction of 2 173 ePHP houses in Khayelitsha. In the last three years, DAG’s technical support to micro-developers has resulted in R13 million in investment finance being unlocked to build 105 rental housing units over a period of three years.

Project Demonstration


DAG facilitates formal action-oriented learning in the form of annual training courses and workshops for civil society leaders, activists, micro-developers, entrepreneurial contractors, and local government officials from across South Africa. Over the last three years, DAG’s Active Citizens Training Course (ACTC) has enrolled and capacitated 102 participants from 62 neighbourhoods in Cape Town. DAG’s Contractor and Developer Academy also often offers customised training, mentorship, and technical support to contractors & developers to deliver affordable rental housing in townships. In addition, DAG runs technical training sessions and peer- to- peer learning workshops for officials, built environment professionals and civil society organisations on innovative land value capture tools and strategies.

Facilitation and training workshops


DAG facilitates learning exchanges between different community-based organisations that are experiencing similar challenges. In these exchanges they are able to learn from each other’s strategies and, in turn, enhance collective advocacy at the grassroots level. DAG also hosts a range of dialogues, including an Urban Dialogue Series which over the last three years has brought together over 380 civil society stakeholders and community leaders. This dialogue series creates a platform for urban stakeholders to collaborate on the development of urban reforms related to informal settlements and national housing policy shifts. A Township Developers Forum was established in 2022, emerging from another series of dialogues with micro-developers. This forum has nearly 100 members who are now also members of the Western Cape Property Development Forum. In 2018, the Land Value Capture Dialogues Series contributed towards the conceptual framing of the City of Cape Town Inclusionary Housing Policy.

Learning exchanges and dialogues


DAG facilitates both participatory action planning and evidence-based research. Participatory action planning is undertaken with community-based partners to prepare their own strategic neighbourhood level development plans, submissions, policy inputs or comments through the strategic use of community data. This includes neighbourhood enumerations, sustainable livelihood analysis, participatory GIS research, social audits, community profiles, and local area-based planning via asset mapping. DAG’s evidence-based research applied policy and legal research is often undertaken in collaboration with local and international partners, and has formed the basis of many joint submissions, urban policy reforms and innovative programmes. Supplementing this, are case study reports and/or process documentation that is shared with a wide range of stakeholders to inform current practices in the sector.

Participatory action planning and evidence-based research

DAG in action
Previous slide
Next slide