Landon Mascareñaz on Co-Creating with Communities: Possip’s 3rd Annual Partner Retreat Recap

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Possip’s Third Annual Partner Retreat featured a conversation with Dr. Landon Mascareñaz of The Colorado Education Initiative. When Dr. Mascareñaz was writing his upcoming book, The Open System: Redesigning Education and Reigniting Democracy, Possip’s Founder, Shani Dowell, was an ‘Opener in Residence’ on a team advising Landon’s research. p Shani and Possip contributed insights that elevated the family experience through data and stories.


Inspired by the Third Annual Partner Retreat, Possip Founder and CEO, Shani Dowell, started our team meeting this week with space for team members to “Share an example of a system or experience that has felt very open or closed.”

Here is what came from that conversation.

Insight 1: Leaders consider what it means to be open. 

Landon’s 1st principle to help open systems is: Activate Open Leadership. Practice having mindsets that allow for change. Leaders must inquire into what it means to have an open mindset, and what it’s like to be closed – blocked, resistant. In the clip below Landon says of an open mindset,

“Open allows for a deeper conversation about our personal blocks. This is critical for leadership and for democracy.He goes on to ask, “Are you open in yourself for the possibilities?

– Dr. Landon Mascareñaz of The Colorado Education Initiative

This is deep work. He doesn’t shy away from saying this is hard work and heart work. Openness is accompanied by acceptance and generosity of spirit. Being open helps with having less emotional attachment to what is received and less judgment toward a particular outcome. Asking for feedback means you may not always have the answers, but you’ll be open to possibilities. 

Keynote Session Speaker Landon Mascareñaz answers Shani Dowell, “How do you build trust?”

Insight 2: Schools are democratic systems. 

Landon’s 5th principle to help open systems is: Model Creative Democracy. It is the idea of co-creation. Designing alongside the community using collective engagement and decision-making. 

Schools are where most of our parents and families encounter democracy for the first time.”

– Dr. Landon Mascareñaz of The Colorado Education Initiative

This was a powerful statement and left more for wondering. How are families encountering democracy in schools? 

  • By participating in Possip and other surveys

  • By making enrollment choices

  • By voting for the school board, who make decisions on matters like budget and curriculum

  • By voting on school bonds

  • By attending parent-teacher conferences, and school events

  • By finding 1:1 time with teachers or administrators

  • By paying state or local sales tax

  • By serving on school committees and advisory boards

  • By volunteering with partnering organizations and programs that provide opportunities for students

  • By attending community forums or town halls

  • By showing up in whatever way is available to them. 

That list takes engagement and initiation on a family’s behalf, and they will be more successful if met with breakout opportunities to engage (Landon’s 3rd principle) and clear pathways for how to initiate engagement. In the next clip Landon says,

The reality is the power of co-creation is to reignite the possibility of participation.

– Dr. Landon Mascareñaz of The Colorado Education Initiative

Schools that prioritize co-creation can reignite the possibility of people participating in democratic systems. 

Keynote Session Speaker Landon Mascareñaz answers Shani Dowell, “How do you develop an open mindset?”

Insight 3: Openness is a practice. 

Landon’s 6th principle to help open systems is: Expand Openness. This is where people take ownership of being open leaders and sustaining change. 

Sustaining a culture of openness and co-creation takes people who practice those values and “trust the thing because they helped build it” as Landon says. At Possip, in our founding years, we’ve talked a lot about bridge-building. The bridge needs maintenance and a crew. An open system takes nurturing and intention, a sense of possibility and practice. Landon closed the conversation with encouragement that if schools and districts commit to these principles, we can “reignite the passion for trust, the possibility for trust, which will lead to a fundamentally different conversation.”

We are so grateful for our time with Dr. Landon Mascareñaz and the insights he has impressed upon us! We can’t wait to order his book. Reach out to us for a discount code.


We also want to thank the principals and administrator panelists who shared their experiences this year! We are excited to share more insights and video clips featuring these exceptional leaders in the future. See all panelists below and get connected.