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IOA Foundations of the Organizational Ombuds Course

About the Course

The Foundations of Organizational Ombuds Practice course is offered multiple times each year virtually and in person.

The IOA Foundations Course is designed for new practicing organizational ombuds and covers the fundamentals of the organizational ombuds role based on the principles of confidentiality, impartiality, independence, and informality.

Additionally, IOA will offer the Foundations Course or Introduction to the Organizational Ombuds Course, tailored specifically for non-practicing ombuds, ombuds assistants, and those individuals interested in pursuing the ombuds profession.

This fundamental three-day experience* is packed with information on how to work with visitors, how to act as a change agent within an organization, and how to practice some of the key ombuds skills necessary for success. The course is taught by an experienced and highly committed faculty of ombuds who will share best practices around running an effective office as well as evaluating and communicating the effectiveness of that office. 

Each in-person course is three full days. Each online course is scheduled across four half-days. To ensure a meaningful and connected experience, each course is limited to 24 participants. Attendees engage in group learning via Zoom, as well as self-driven online learning hosted on IOA’s Online Learning Center

Foundations Registration Information

2024 Virtual Foundations Registration Rates

  • $1,895 USD for IOA members
  • $2,495 USD for Non-Members

2024 In-Person Foundations Registration Rates

  • $2,095 USD for IOA members
  • $2,595 USD for Non-Members

Course payment is due at least four weeks before the course starts. Please review all payment, registration, and attendance policies prior to registering for a course.

View Course Policies

2024 IOA Foundations Course Schedule

The Foundations Course is designed for recently appointed ombuds. You must hold an ombuds position to register. If you do not currently hold an ombuds position and/or you are exploring becoming an ombuds or are interested in learning about the organizational ombuds role, you may register for the May 2024 course. Additional courses for aspiring ombuds may be scheduled later in the year based on demand. 

2024 Course Dates
Registration generally opens three months prior to each course on a rolling basis. Dates that are not linked below are subject to change.

  • 08 – 11 January | Virtual SOLD OUT!
  • 12 – 15 February | Virtual SOLD OUT!
  • 11 – 14 March | Virtual SOLD OUT!
  • 08 - 11 April | Virtual SOLD OUT!
  • 13 - 16 May | Virtual Special Course for Aspiring Ombuds SOLD OUT
    • The May course will be reserved for aspiring ombuds and others who are interested in learning about the organizational ombuds role who are not currently practicing ombuds.
  • 22 - 24 July | In-Person (San Francisco, CA, USA) OPEN NOW!
  • 12 - 15 August | Virtual OPEN NOW!
  • 09 - 12 September | Virtual
  • 16 - 18 September | In-Person (Ottawa, Canada) OPENING SOON
  • 16-17 & 26 September | Virtual, Introduction to the Organizational Ombuds (*special Offering for European Regional Advancement Community (RAC)) OPEN NOW!
  • 28 - 30 October | In-Person (Providence, RI, USA) OPEN NOW!
  • 04 - 07 November | Virtual Special Course for Collateral Duty Ombuds
  • 02 - 05 December | Virtual

Want to know when space becomes available in a sold-out course?

Join 2024 Course Interest List
View the IOA Event Calendar

Who should attend the Foundations Course?

The course is designed for recently appointed ombuds. Its objectives are to help new practitioners: 

  • Recognize the dimensions and parameters of the organizational ombuds role
  • Reflect on their own personal relationship to the role
  • Develop basic skills to perform the role effectively
  • Learn best practices
  • Identify resources to learn more
  • Build a community of practice

"I took the IOA’s first virtual Foundations Course back in October of 2020, and I found it to be a very valuable experience. The instructors were knowledgeable and engaging, the material was presented in an organized way, and there were plenty of opportunities for both small-group and large-group discussions. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and learn from colleagues all over the world without having to deal with the expenses normally associated with travel."

— Dr. Julia Farmer, IOA Member

Participants of this course will learn how to...

  • Recognize key characteristics and skills of effective ombuds.
  • Apply the ethical principles of confidentiality, impartiality, independence, and informality.
  • Use new strategies to build trust and show compassion with visitors.
  • Demonstrate impartial listening techniques, including how to paraphrase, reflect, and reframe.
  • Analyze visitor issues to identify positions, related feelings, and underlying interests.
  • Better assist visitors in exploring and defining options.
  • See the interdependence between how ombuds serve visitors and serve the organization at large.
  • Align the ombuds function with the overall vision, mission, goals, and values of the organization.
  • Work more effectively with organizational leadership.
  • Address common challenges to conveying the value and impact of ombuds work.
  • Appreciate the uniqueness and complexity of the ombuds role.
  • Recognize the dimensions and parameters of the organizational ombuds role
  • Reflect on their own personal relationship to the role
  • Learn best practices
  • Identify resources to learn more
  • Build a community of practice

This course is also beneficial for anyone desiring to enter the ombuds profession or establish an ombuds function within an organization. This course applies to ombuds programs in organizational settings. (Ex. industry, government, education, and public or private social services agencies). It does not address some features unique to other models of ombuds practice, such as classical, advocate, or legislative.

Please note this course does not address some features unique to other models of ombuds practice, such as classical, advocate, or legislative.

Foundations for practicing ombuds will be offered virtually in January, February, April, August, September, and December 2024 and also in-person in July (San Francisco, CA, USA) and October (Providence RI, USA) 2024. *Virtual Foundations are scheduled Monday - Thursday, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM PT and in-person Foundations are scheduled for three days.

In May 2024, we are offering a special Foundations for those who are not practicing ombuds. This includes those who support ombuds offices, those in related fields (i.e. mediators, coaches and other ADR practitioners), and those interested in learning more about the model in order to set up an office.

In September 2024, we will offer a special Foundations Course in Ottawa, Canada.

In November 2024, we will also offer a special Foundations for those ombuds who have collateral or other duties assigned to them in addition to the ombuds role. This course will spend more time addressing the unique challenges for those who wear multiple hats. Note: Collateral Duty Ombuds may also enroll in any of the virtual or in-person courses for practicing ombuds.

Foundations Scholarships

IOA offers annual scholarships for the Foundations Course. The scholarship application window generally runs November-December of the year prior to the applicant's desired course year. Eligibility criteria and scholarship requirements involve financial needs, professional references, and a written summary of the recipient's experience from the course. This scholarship covers the course fee for either a virtual or in-person Foundations course. If the scholarship applicant elects to attend an in-person Foundations course, travel and lodging will not be covered by the scholarship.

2024 Eligibility Criteria & Scholarship Requirements

  • Applicants must be a member of IOA.
  • Applicants must not have additional financial support from their employer or other organization to attend a Foundations course.
  • Applicants must provide one reference with their contact information in their application.
Application Submissions Closed

Other Resources & Related Courses

If this course is not quite what you are looking for, please take a moment to review the list of other helpful resources and tools below. 

Apply to Become a Foundations Instructor

The Professional Development Committee (PDC) is tasked with identifying qualified instructors and presenters who are willing to share skills and knowledge with ombuds from around the world. The PDC is excited to present its new Instructor Interest Form, which allows IOA members to apply to become an instructor or presenter for many of IOA's training opportunities. 

Learn More & Apply