Around the world, informal and low-income settlements (so-called “slums”) have been a major issue in city management and environmental sustainability in developing countries. Overall, African cities have an agenda for slum management and response. For example, the South African government introduced the Upgrade of Informal Settlements Program (UISP), as a comprehensive plan for upgrading slum settlements. Nevertheless, upgrading informal settlements from the bottom-up is key to inform broad protocols and strategies for sustainable communities and `adaptive cities´. Community-scale schemes can drive sustainability from the bottom-up and offer opportunities to share lessons learnt at the local level. Key success factors in their roll-out are: systems thinking; empowered local authorities that support decentralised solutions and multidisciplinary collaboration between the involved actors, including the affected local population. This research lies under the umbrella of sustainable bottom-up urban regeneration. As part of a larger project of collaboration between UK and SA research institutions, this paper presents an overview of in-situ participatory upgrade as an incremental strategy for upgrading informal settlements in the context of sustainable and resilient city. The motivation for this research is rooted in identifying the underpinning barriers and enabling drivers for up-scaling community-led, participatory upgrading approaches in informal settlements in the metropolitan area. This review paper seeks to provide some preliminary guidelines and recommendations for an integrated collaborative environmental and construction management framework to enhance community self-reliance. A theoretical approach based on the review of previous studies was combined with a pilot study conducted in Durban (South Africa) to investigate the feasibility of community-led upgrading processes.