The aim of this article is to examine urban green infrastructure (UGI) as a strategy for adaptation to a nexus of challenges facing slum dwellers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In Bangladesh and elsewhere in the global South urban slum dwellers are often wells of knowledge on sustainable practices through their prior competence developed in rural areas. Due to poverty and frequent natural hazards many rural people take shelter within informal settlements in cities. One of the prime challenges for urban slum dwellers is to harness and distribute their competence within the context of their changed circumstances and in regards to the materials available to them and meanings around which they shape their lives. Pertinent issues such as land insecurity, space constraints, unemployment, crime, corruption and cultural exclusion to name a handful, have created strains on slum dwellers’ lives and livelihoods. One important aspect that can enhance slum dwellers’ capacity to cope is the harvesting of latent competence as one facet of their overall social practices. The contribution draws upon semi-structured in-depth interviews with slum dwellers in Korail slum, Dhaka and ethnographic observation. In the empirical data, we explore how latent competence in UGI serves as a source of community resilience and ‘trickle-up’ development action in precarious urban settings through user participation.