Journal of the International Ombudsman Association (JIOA)

JIOA 2018 Articles

Ombuds and Bystanding: Embracing Influence
Loraleigh Keashly

By virtue of their formal organizational and professional roles, Ombuds are key organizational influencers. They are empowered to comment on what they see and hear and are viewed as highly credible reporters. As a result, Ombuds are well positioned to identify specific issues that need to be addressed and to develop and explore options with others as to how to respond. Beyond these formal roles, Ombuds are also organizational members and thus, have responsibilities and influence as fellow community members. In this article, I argue for Ombuds to explore and leverage the variety of possibilities available to them for constructive engagement and influence. To open up these possibilities, I offer the metaphor of “Ombuds as bystander”. Utilizing the Bystander Decision-making Model, I identify key influences on people’s decision to engage and offer specific strategies and resources to build the efficacy of organizational members to be constructive and active bystanders. By more fully
understanding bystanding, Ombuds expand their own effectiveness as bystanders and organizational influencers. They are also better prepared to help other organizational members embrace their own influence and power as active and constructive bystanders.

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Editor's Note:

Dear Readers,

At the annual IOA conference in 2017, Loraleigh Keashley gave the keynote address “From Observation to Engagement: Developing Bystander Efficacy to Address Problematic Behaviors.” This article expands on those themes and presents the importance of ombuds as active bystanders and influencers.

I listened to her words openly during that session and even over a year later they still resonate with the work that I do.  Recently, I read Margaret J. Wheatley’s work’ “Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope in the Future” and the concept of bystander seemed to tie closely to that of “bearing witness” – a practice where one sits with “human suffering, to acknowledge it for what it is and not flee from it.” As I read, I was struck by how often this has been my experience as an ombuds… how often those that seek our services want and need someone to first hear them openly and authentically, as well as assist them in thinking critically about their options and to take action.

As the ombuds field continues to reflect on its work, not just as those who resolve conflict, but as observers of humanity, examining how practitioners see themselves as bystanders and the potential vitality of this experience. Dr. Keashley’s model and visioning of the ombuds role helps ombuds to think more deeply about how we may “bear witness” first and use those experiences to take action.

Best Wishes,

Shannon Lynn Burton, Ph.D.
Co-Editor, JIOA

A Meatball by Any Other Name
David Rasch

After considerable debate, the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) chose to use the word ‘ombudsman’ in its name when it was formed in 2005. This word has Old Norse origins and was used by King Charles XII when he formed the first Ombudsman office for his government in Sweden in 1713. King Charles’ model for the ombudsman office was inspired by the Mohtasib, a similar position that existed in the Ottoman Empire. The organizational ombudsman profession originated in the1960’s in America, and even though this new role departed in several significant ways from King Charles’ vision, the title ‘ombudsman’ was still widely adopted by organizational ombuds offices. There have been concerns raised along the way that the ‘man’ suffix of the word is unnecessary and gendered. Recent cultural movements, such as #metoo, have brought increased attention to issues related to gender inequity within our culture and institutions, and many offices and organizations have already elected to use alternative titles for their offices such as ‘ombuds’ or ‘ombudsperson’, to make the title gender neutral. The author suggests that now is a good time for the IOA to drop the ‘man’ and use anon gendered term like ‘ombuds’ in our title that better suits our current moment in history.

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Three Ombuds, Two Books, and One Tip Sheet
Jan Morse, Jenna Brown, and Jim Wohl

Three ombuds from different academic institutions organized a book group to read The Mentor's Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships, 2nd edition by Lois J. Zachary and The Mentee's Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You by Lois J. Zachary and Lory A. Fischler. Read this article for a review of both books together and learn one way in which book groups can enrich communities of practice with an example resource for ombuds. 

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The Research Agenda for the Organizational Ombuds Profession: A Living Document
Shereen G. Bingham, Tyler S. Smith, Shannon L. Burton, Danita Elkerson

The Research and Assessment Committee of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA) was charged by the Board of Directors to create a research agenda for the ombuds field. The agenda is intended to serve as a guide for future initiatives within the IOA related to research, outline the research priorities of the IOA for outside entities, and establish research as a fundamental value to the field of ombuds work. A Research Agenda Subcommittee formed to take on this project and develop a qualitative survey to identify the research interests of IOA members. The subcommittee distributed the survey to all current members, and eighty- five of them completed it. Analysis of the data resulted in eight major research goals supported by 42 specific research areas. This article establishes the importance of the research agenda for the IOA, explains the methodology used to create it, explores areas of inquiry underpinning each of the eight research goals, and discusses implications for the advancement of research on organizational ombuds.

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Amplifying Trends with Data
Jennifer Smith Schneider

How can an organizational ombuds define a trend and know if the issue is truly pervasive or of consequence? Author Jennifer Smith Schneider uses data collected from a large, public research institution to illustrate how to identify and report trends in visitor issues and make recommendations for responsibly addressing them.

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Ombuds and Conflict Resolution Specialists: Navigating Workplace Challenges in Higher Education
Neil H. Katz, Katherine J. Sosa, and Linda N. Kovak

Over the last few years there have been many articles written about the ombuds role. But very few of those pieces were empirically grounded examinations of how the ombuds function was experienced and perceived within particular organizations. Mostly, writing about the ombuds role has been conceptual - focusing on different issues associated with the standards of practice or the code of ethics. When actual ombuds practices and tactics are discussed, it is usually from the perspective of a practicing ombuds reflecting on his or her experiences and examined through his or her idiosyncratic interpretations of the role. This article, “Ombuds and Conflict Resolution Specialists: Navigating Workplace Challenges in Higher Education” by Nova Southeastern University faculty member Neil H. Katz and two of his graduate students, Katherine J. Sosa and Linda N. Kovack, offers those interested in the ombuds role an opportunity to better understand the impact we do and do not have in the organizations in which we function. Specifically Katz, Sosa, and Kovack have studied the work of ombuds in 11 universities in the United States. We think readers will agree that this study was carefully composed and conducted and that the report of their findings is both thoughtful and provocative. For this reason we are taking the unprecedented step of publishing this jointly with the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds. In fact, the article was first submitted to the Cal Caucus journal and we want to thank them for generously agreeing to a simultaneous joint publication. We believe the article has relevance and value for all organizational ombuds, whether or not they work in the academic world. - The JIOA Editorial Board 

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About the JIOA

The Journal of the International Ombudsman Association (JIOA) is a peer-reviewed online journal for scholarly articles and information relevant to the ombudsman profession. As members of a relatively new profession, we continually strive to understand, define and clarify the role and function of the professional organizational ombudsman.

The JIOA will help foster recognition that what we do for our agencies, corporations, colleges, and universities is worthy of study. While we must vigorously protect the confidentiality of our interactions, we can still study and be studied to understand what we do and how we do it; what works well and what doesn't work; what our options are; how social, technical and legal changes may impact us; what the profile and career development of ombudsman professionals might be, and other matters of interest.

The JIOA can facilitate a greater interest in ombudsing, enhance our professional standing, and serve to give us a better understanding of our dynamic roles and the impact on our institutions and agencies. The Journal also will allow IOA members, other ombudsmen, and other professionals to reach out to their colleagues with their ideas, research findings, theories, and recommendations for best practices and to engage in ongoing discussions of critical issues.

Learn more about the JIOA and the manuscript submission process.

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If you have any questions about the JIOA please contact the co-editors via email at [email protected].

  • Howard Gadlin, National Institutes of Health, Retired
  • Shannon Lynn Burton, Michigan State University
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