As in previous years, the 2020 virtual conference will be organized around an opportunity for participants to be immersed in a unique live teamwork experience recently renamed, Open Assist. This important centrepiece, which runs throughout our conference, provides an exciting opportunity for teams of participants to engage directly with senior management representing a real organization (client).  The objective for the teams is to respond to the organization’s (client’s) Request For Proposals (RFP) to outline an approach for resolving a current problem the organization is facing and/or to identify and take advantage of opportunities to perform and produce “even better” results.

Through the Open Assist process the client organization receives real value for their participation, as measured by their immediate feedback at the end of the process and also, importantly, one year later.  Participant teams gain valuable knowledge and actual experience, working on a diverse multinational team, as they interact directly with, present to and get feedback from a senior management team, all in a “safe”, supportive, constructive environment of learning, sharing and enriching each participant’s experience and ability to grow their professional network.


open“: looking outside of the organization’s boundaries to get something (innovation, solutions, ideas, etc.) from external individuals or organizations in a crowdsourcing environment.
assist“: putting the client in the best conditions to achieve its objectives. In basketball, an assist (the proposal)  happens when a player (team at the conference) passes the ball to a teammate (the client) in a way that leads to a score by field goal (achieve the objectives illustrated in the RFP). It reminds the magic chemistry of Karl Malone (the second scoring leaders of NBA ever: 36,928 points, more than the legend Michael Jordan) and John Stockton (holding the NBA records for most career assists: 15,806): in the NBA, there is no other combination of passer and scorer that even comes close to Malone and Stockton.
At the conference, client is the scorer (the champion) and teams are the passer (who sets up the best conditions for the champion to make a field goal).



The process begins by inviting professionals, who are already registered to participate in the upcoming conference, to volunteer for the important role of Open Assist Team Leader, in advance of the conference. In order to properly introduce them, we ask them to provide us with a brief bio and a short statement about why they were willing to take on the Team Leader role.


The Request for Proposals (RFP) made by the Client is delivered to each participant at the registration desks. Team Leaders are provided with a package of Open Assist Overview Materials before the conference. The Client explains the key elements of the RFP during the opening session of the Conference.


Each Team Leader has 60 seconds to introduce herself during the opening session and invite participants to join her team. Participants that want to try the Open Assist exprerience can join the preferred team. At the end of the “recruiting” session, team members of a bigger team are invited to join a smaller team on a voluntary basis, to balance the number of members of each team.


In order to develop an effective proposal, teams often need more information than what is detailed in the request. Information about the request itself, the business of the client, the context in which it operates, its organization, structure and culture. A 2 hours session of questions and answers with the client held on Friday morning should help to clarify each additional detail.


The time to work on the proposal is never enough. An hour and a half on Thursday after the opening session, two hours on Friday afternoon, an hour and a half Saturday morning. These are the slots for team working. In a very short time you need to contribute in creating a collaborative team, exploring the request and making a winner proposal. This is the challenge.


On Saturday afternoon, all the proposals are presented to the Client. Each team has 10 to 15 minutes to deliver its presententation,  answer questions, and convince the Client that its proposal is absolutely perfect for them. The advice is to use few Powerpoint slides, and make them very effective.


After the presentation of proposals made by teams, the Client  people move in another room, take some time to closely evaluate each proposal and choose the one that most suits their request and needs. Then they come back to the plenary room and announce who is the winner. No prize, just glory.

2020 Open Assist Client

Introducing ISPI EMEA 2020 Open Assist Client


Communicare – Who/what is it?

Communicare, a non profit company, is the oldest provider of social housing in South Africa.  

It began more than 90 years ago (1929), as the Citizens Housing League Utility Company, formed in response to poor housing conditions in Cape Town.  Providing rental housing to a wide range of tenants, including a large portfolio of social rentals (properties rented at discounted rates), Communicare, today, is not just another landlord.

Socially Conscious and High-Impact Mission — Communicare is committed to an ambitious mission at the societal level, aimed at having a meaningful impact, not simply financially or with traditional real-estate success measures in the marketplace, but rather to make a difference in the lives of real people.  Specifically, Communicare is dedicated to, “Providing opportunities for more people to live with dignity and an improving quality of life, so that caring communities can flourish.”

The Communicare Difference – Communicare’s unique social enterprise business model (below) enables it to provide social rentals while also growing sustainably.  To finance the development of new social rentals, Communicare combines the state’s capital grants and subsidies with surpluses from its own commercially-established and viable residential property activities. This makes the social rentals financially feasible and sustainable.

In 1990, more than 60 years after it was established, the Citizens Housing League Utility Company renamed (rebranded), Communicare.  Nearly 20 years later, in 2009, Communicare celebrated its 80th Anniversary by publicly accepting responsibility for its role in treating people inequitably in the past and committing to never again be party to unfair discrimination. The Communicare Foundation was formed in the same year to promote transformation in society. Today, the social development programme, run by the Communicare Foundation, Vulamathuba, supports healthy tenant relationships, assists vulnerable tenants and promotes the economic mobility of tenants.

Communicare is able to offer housing options and social development services that are both valuable and sustainable, as a result of its unique business model.

Cross Financing Funds Sources

Communicare targets a mix of tenants. In that way, tenants who pay market rates enable Communicare to achieve a steady flow of annuity income that allows the organization to sustainably add new social rental units. It also makes it possible for them to offer concessionary rentals to their most vulnerable tenants, especially those dependent on the old age pension.

Communicare uses its goodfind Properties brand, to develop residential property that is sold or rented in the affordable and middle-segment housing markets. This boosts the finance available for its social rentals.

Social Development Programme (Communicare Foundation: Vulamathuba)

Communicare Foundation’s programmes are offered under the Vulamathuba brand. The social development programme –

  • supports healthy tenant relations across cultural, racial, generational and other divides,
  • assists vulnerable tenants, and is uniquely designed to
  • provide an enabling environment for the economic mobility of tenants, who begin their relationship with Communicare in its social rental units

Background – Context for Performance

Given the age of the organisation and the nature of the services provided by Communicare, what was going on in society (the organizaton’s ultimate context for performance), particularly within its immediate/direct external customer “marketplace,” had a significant impact on how the organization operated its business(es) and, therefore, how it evolved over time.
Between 1929 and 1941, 1500 homes had been built by Citizens Housing League Utility Company, including Ruyterwacht Township established in 1938, in response to the dilemma of housing poor white Afrikaners (South Africans of European descent, whose native language is Afrikaans and classified as ‘white’ under apartheid).

Economically and socially, the Second World War had a profound effect on South Africa. – Though gold continued to dominate exports and export earnings, manufacturing grew enormously to meet wartime demands. Between 1939 and 1945, the number of people working in manufacturing, including African women, rose 60 percent. It is not surprising that urbanization also increased dramatically. By 1946 many people classified as ‘black’ under apartheid lived in squatter communities established on the outskirts of major cities such as Cape Town. Certainly necessary for war production, this migration to the cities and towns contradicted the segregationist ideology of the Nationalist government that blacks should live in their rural locations and not become permanent urban residents.

Further, urban ‘black’ workers formed their own trade unions, demanding higher wages and better working conditions and engaged in strikes throughout the early 1940s. The most important of these new trade unions, the African Mineworkers Union (AMWU), succeeded in getting 60,000 men to stop work. The strike was crushed by police actions that left twelve dead, but it demonstrated the potential strength of organized black workers in challenging the cheap labor system.

Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. Introduced in 1950, the Group Areas Act enacted by the Parliament of South Africa assigned and limited racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas. This system legislated and institutionalised the programme of separate development for people classified along racial lines. One consequence of excluding the ‘non-white’ majority from living in the most developed urban areas, was that many ‘non-white’ people were required to commute long distances from their homes to find work.

In keeping with the Group Areas Act, Citizens Housing League Utility Company built (1951) its first ‘coloured’-only residential township in the Bishop Lavis suburb, located 15 kilometers (9 mi) east of Cape Town city center, close to the Cape Town International Airport.

Later in the 70s Citizens Housing League Utility Company expanded from providing family housing, in 1976, when it developed Creswell House for seniors. In the same year, resistance against apartheid mounted when an estimated 20,000 students across South Africa took part in protests in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in local schools. Met with fierce police brutality, the number of people killed is often quoted as 176 (a reference to the year), but estimates of up to 700 or more have been made. Several developments for seniors were developed by Citizens Housing League Utility Company in the years that followed.

By 1989 the South African government reduced its financial support for housing for seniors. Citizens Housing League Utility Company welcomed Shell as its first corporate sponsor and adapted its business again by introducing its first market rental development (Ascot Square in Milnerton). Such market rental developments would enable ongoing reduced rentals for seniors and other vulnerable households. In 1989, Citizens Housing League Utility Company also developed its first bonded housing project for ‘black’ people in Mfuleni.

As mentioned above, in 1990, there was a name change and the Citizens Housing League Utility Company organization became Communicare. Then, some 19 years later, in 2009 the Communicare Foundation was formed to promote and support positive transformation in society.

Recent History and Looking Ahead 

In 2010 the South African government established the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA)  in 2010. In keeping with the Social Housing Act of 2008, the State Owned agency is responsible for investing in, regulating and capacitating the South African social housing sector. The Social Housing Act defines Social Housing is an affordable rental housing option for households earning between R1 500 – R15 000 per month, which has received capital grants from the SHRA, which is provided by accredited Social Housing Institutions, and is located in designated restructuring zones. 

Communicare, previously Citizens Housing League Utility Company was quickly accredited as a Social Housing Agency and built its first regulated social housing development (Drommedaris) in 2010. Followed soon after by a second development Bothasig Gardens.   At the same time throughout the 2000s Communicare developed residential housing in the middle income sales market to drive its cross-subsidisation model.

In 2015, Communicare embarked on a new strategy to drive a more aggressive housing development agenda to achieve the delivery of 10,000 new units in 10 years.  Proceeding with the transformation, in 2016 Communicare rebranded and made an important pledge, leading to the statement of its current mission – “Providing opportunities for more people to live with dignity and an improving quality of life, so that caring communities can flourish.”

Communicare owns and manages a growing residential portfolio, currently 3375 rental units in well located areas in Cape Town and it has begun a journey to grow larger and stronger in pursuit of its valuable and challenging mission for the people of Cape Town and the Western Province.



Sylvia Lee, Ed.D.


Sylvia’s experience is based on her doctoral research as well as her experience as a strengths-based leader and in organizational design. She has extensive experience presenting at numerous ISPI-EMEA, ISPI, and other conferences in many countries, live and online. Sylvia has written academic and business articles, blogs, and an academic book chapter on the strengths paradigm and strengths-based leadership in organizations and led strengths initiatives in organizations as HR leader.

Contact Sylvia if you want to join her team!

John B. Lazar, MA, MCC

CEO, John B. Lazar & Associates, Inc.

John has been an NSPI/ISPI member since 1981, presented at the last five ISPI EMEA conferences and is a current ISPI board member. He coaches/consults to companies about leadership and management practices, communications, organizational change and performance improvement. A Master Certified Coach, John works with leaders and teams, shifting mindsets, developing practices and improving results. He received his Master’s in Clinical Psychology from University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. You can contact John at

Daniela Robu, MSc, CPT, CRP

Director, Knowledge Management Infrastructure, Systems Innovation and Programs, Alberta Health Services (AHS)

Daniela has a Master’s of Science in Biomedical Engineering, Certification in e-Learning, Adult Learning (U of Calgary), Performance Technology (ISPI, USA), Return on Investment (ROI Institute, USA) and Certified Health Executive (CCHL, Canada). Daniela integrates innovative approaches in her work that aim to solve the current business challenges to increase efficiency and efficacy of core business processes, where knowledge is central to organizational performance and shared those at 20 conferences (EMEA, ISPI, APQC, CCHL, ECKM).

Contact Daniela if you want to join Team Explorers!

Dr. Fritz Lebowsky

Consultant in Management of Technology and Innovation

Dr. Fritz Lebowsky received PhD degree in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany. He became extremely curious about investigating astonishing human performance in visual perception and transferring the findings into consumer products.

A Master degree program of executive Management of Technology and Innovation at the Grenoble School of Management led to exploring new concepts of creating harmony between human emotional intelligence and artificial intelligence enabling a human sustainable future for ALL. 

Contact Dr. Lebowsky to join his team!

The Simulation Case Study (now Open Assist) was a great, interactive way to meet people, try out new ideas, and get practice making a pitch to a potential client. I met great people and thoroughly enjoyed the valuable experience. I hope I am able to return again in the future.Lisa A. Giacumo - Boise State University

Open Assist Team Leader - First time participant, Bonn, 2016


Skopje – 2019

Wines of Macedonia

Gothenburg – 2018

Culture Administration of City of Gothenburg, Sweden

Bologna – 2017

City and Municipality of Arezzo, Italy

Never Again Ruanda – 2016 Bonn experience feedback

NAR - Never Again Rwanda

Once again, it has been a pleasure working with you.  We look forward to gaining more skills regarding Performance Improvement from your side. … I hope that we will be able to share with you the outcomes of the entire exercise at the ISPI EMEA conference next year

Bonn, 2016

IETT - Istanbul Electric Tram and Tünel Company

From the beginning to the end of the program, we both learned and enjoyed at every step.  … We witnessed how performance oriented your program is.   You and your team’s enthusiasm and also the professional quality of the participants, all made the event a real learning experience. … Of course, the case proposals will be of great help for us to check-up our performance initiatives from a fresh outlook.
It was an absolutely unique and very valuable event for us!

Istanbul, 2015

Al Majmoua - The Lebanese Association For Development

Thank you very much for the opportunity and for the case study.  We are so excited to review the groups’ proposals and start working on an action plan.

Warsaw, 2014

EQE - National Center for Educational Quality Enhacement

Thank you and the whole team that was working with us!  Patrick, special thanks to you, as your primary interest in the NCEQE has moved this interesting project forward!  This endeavor was quite timely for the Center, as it will help us in our plans to move the organization forward and develop its capacity.

Tbilisi, 2013