Now: The Open Moment

I’d like to make the (not so radical) argument that we’ve reached a serious, deep inflection point leading towards openness, from global to local systems. From the World Trade Organization to the local library, the systems that form our society’s foundation were built for another time and place —not the moment of “transparency, authenticity, access” that Dell describes. And while it may feel that the wall builders and closed system cheerleaders are winning; I’d argue there is another truth. That more and more people are thinking in a global construct of openness. That we are implementing more and more open policies that push us toward a freer exchange of ideas and power. But as the world moves toward openess, supporters of the closed system status will push back harder than ever. To break through this resistance, we must push even farther, opening elements across all of our system. And I believe the most important place to do this work in is education, right now.

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Us: The Once and Future Openers

I’ve always found it ironic that those of us in the family and community engagement space are often lonely people. Not by choice (because usually we’re extroverts) but because of the way systems usually think about family and community engagement.  

You see, within our districts, schools, and organizations, we are usually the only ones charged with the responsibility of working with families and parents. School systems typically have a handful of folks charged with this responsibility. Very rarely do they have budgets, and even more rarely do they have missions and purposes focused on the broader opening work.

How wild is it then, that the very people often charged with “building community” or working with “the people” find themselves alone in the system, fighting major battles against decades of system dispositions? Changing a system to think about openness is no small matter and it’s really the responsibility of everyone—not just one person.  

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Self: Why I (Have to) Believe in The Open System

This story begins in 1920s Mexico. My grandmother’s parents were living in Zacatecas right after the Mexican Revolution. My great-grandfather found himself embroiled in a tumultuous situation when he was accused of stealing. A noose was put around his neck and he was ready to die.  At the very last minute, a local man ran up and told everyone that my great-grandfather wasn’t the thief; the crime was committed by a recently-apprehended criminal.  

After that, my great-grandfather decided to flee Mexico and move his family to Colorado.

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Beyond Family Engagement: Toward the “Open System”

For the past three years, I’ve worked at Denver Public Schools in the Office of Family and Community Engagement.  It has been an incredible experience and as I’ve transitioned to my new role as Senior Partner, Advocacy and Alliances at A+ Colorado, I’ve wanted  to reflect a bit more on my time and work.  

I’ve come to see the work of family engagement to be a critical l force in the building of partnership and relationships between schools, districts and those they serve.  However, I’ve come to see it as something much bigger - the cracking open of closed systems into the sustaining and development of an open system.  As I’ve had the gift of working with other organizations, it has become clearer to me that we are witnessing a fundamental shift in our public education system. This transformation is bigger than family engagement: it is about public systems that are open vs. closed.

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