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How Can You Safely Participate in Ombuds Day During COVID

Celebrate Our Profession October 8, 2020

The primary goal of Ombuds Day is to improve public awareness of ombuds. 

Our actions are intended to

  • Educate the public about the role of ombuds
  • Explain the wide variety of services that ombuds provide
  • Encourage greater use of ombuds programs and services
  • Highlight the value ombuds bring to the institutions and constituents they serve.

With all of that in mind. How can you participate this year while keeping safe and healthy? Here are some helpful suggestions from Ken Skodacek, representing the ABA Ombuds Day Subcommittee.

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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force Announcement

by Melanie Jagneaux, CO-OP®, IOA 2020-2021 President

In July of 2020, the IOA Board unanimously approved the establishment of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force. This task force will help IOA internally evaluate itself on aligning with anti-racism practices and racial justice. It will also define parameters for ensuring IOA cultivates a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that supports membership belonging and connection within the organization.

Initial work of the DEI Task Force will be to propose a position statement for IOA regarding racism and racial injustice and recommending any changes to the Terms of Reference for the task force that will better articulate its purpose, composition, authority, and role in relation to the IOA Board of Directors. More importantly, the task force will be critical in the process of profound reflection and examination of how our organization may have contributed to the perpetuation of racial injustice, whether intentional or unintentional. Ultimately, the work of this new task force must be focused on action—that is, doing our part to dismantle the structures, processes, and practices that have reinforced racial injustice—and then building a way forward that advances racial justice, belonging, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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Announcing Virtual Foundations of Organizational Ombuds Practice

By The Virtual Foundations Team

IOA is proud to announce we are expanding our popular Foundations of Organizational Ombuds Practice course to a virtual platform. We will be launching our first course in October 2020!

In late May, a small team of IOA volunteers—which includes experienced Foundations instructors and subject matter experts— began working with Springboard International, a consulting firm with e-learning expertise. The group began modifying and updating the Foundations format for success in an online environment. This work is currently ongoing and involves reviewing and updating existing content, identifying new modes for instruction, and developing asynchronous learning elements such as videos and reflection prompts. 

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2020 IOA Financial Update

By Lee Twyman, IOA Treasurer

The IOA 2020 budget has been significantly impacted by the cancellation of the IOA2020 Annual Conference and pre-conference professional development courses, cancellation of four planned Foundations courses (two at the conference and two scheduled for July of this year) as well as cancellation of one pre-conference core course. The current projected deficit for this year is $254,000. An important footnote here, over the past 5 years, IOA has worked diligently to build financial reserves and those reserves have provided a buffer for this year’s financial downturn and may provide additional reserves to draw upon for a couple more years.  However, just as in personal savings, we do not want to deplete the reserves any more than is absolutely necessary.

The Board and Finance Committee are working closely to remedy this budget deficit and bring IOA back to a positive net revenue within three years (if not sooner). All IOA Committees have been asked to voluntarily defer non-critical spending for the remainder of 2020, and we are looking for ways to gain back lost revenue.

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IOA Ombuds Program Extended

By Melanie Jagneaux, 2020-2021 IOA President

Dear IOA Members,

After a successful pilot program, the IOA Board unanimously voted to extend the IOA ombuds program. Our inaugural IOA Ombuds, Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®, informed the Board that she received calls from all sectors and across the globe. In addition, Elaine presented three ‘upward feedback’ concerns that inspired action of the Board concerning updates to members. Elaine also presented a written report to the Board on the program’s performance for the pilot period, which gave the Board the information necessary to review the program’s performance. The report was favorably received by the Board as it presents ombuds case information in a way that is both informative and reader-friendly. Given the quality and contents of the report, the Board unanimously agreed that IOA members would appreciate receiving the report. 

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IOA Standards of Practice Update

By Chuck Howard, IOA Executive Director

We wanted to give you an update on the progress of revisions to the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.  After the Professional Standards and Ethics Task Force presented its recommendations to the Board in fall 2019, some additional revisions were recommended. Earlier this year, the Board considered those recommendations and approved a plan to develop additional documentation to provide more background information for members to have in considering the work that went into developing the revisions. Unfortunately, that process was hampered and slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The good news is that we are moving on to the next in the plan.

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A Note from Chuck: Request for Ombud Stories

IOA Executive Director, Chuck Howard, Wants to Share Ombuds' Stories

Submit Your Story by 31 August 2020

I have exciting news—I am writing a new book! It is a follow-up to my original, The Organizational Ombudsman. My new book will take an even deeper dive into how ombuds work and will feature real examples of the types of issues ombuds encounter every day.

To help complete the book and educate ombuds and non-ombuds alike, I am asking for your help in sharing ombuds stories.

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Letter from the IOA President - A Call for Fairness & Justice

Dear fellow IOA members,

Over the days following the senseless killing of George Floyd, people across the world have shared an outpouring of emotion from deep sadness to intense rage as the latest in a pattern of police violence against black people. I know that many of you may be feeling frightened, sad, hopeless, or angry; I certainly am.

It is at times like this that I realize how very important our role as ombuds is to the communities we serve. As ombuds, we are called to help, to heal, to educate, and to find solutions to our visitors’ issues. Perhaps our call to help has never been more important than it is today. No one person can heal the wounds of racism or prevent them from recurring. But as ombuds, we can do our part to help people address racism and other issues of violence or exclusion. We can be a voice to address systemic issues and fair processes whether with our visitors, with each other, within our organizations, or within our communities.

I imagine that many of you are plugged into the happenings in your cities and neighborhoods and are hearing loud pleas for help and outcries for change. No doubt, you are connecting and helping where you can. I hope you also feel comfortable asking for help, especially if these events are directly impacting you. I trust that you are activating your personal support networks, and I also want to remind you that your professional network in IOA is here for you, too. Please use our online Discussion Circles and the LinkedIn Organizational Ombuds Discussion Forum to share resources and support. Utilize the IOA Ombuds Program. Plan to join a Community Connections event. Reach out to our leadership team with suggestions for resources or action.

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Warm Thoughts from the IOA President

By Marcia Martínez-Helfman, IOA President 2018-2020

My first thought when I woke this morning was that I should be heading to the airport to fly to Portland and the IOA’s 15th Annual Conference. The Foundations Course would have already been underway.  I’d be preparing for our Board of Directors meeting on Saturday and Sunday, and excited that the Conference itself would be underway beginning Sunday night.  I will truly miss the camaraderie, learning, sharing, and just plain socializing with you all.

Today, I return to my home office aka the dining table after taking time to plot and execute a strategy for replenishing my refrigerator and pantry.  My son, recently back from London and self-isolating, stood at the curb to pick up the groceries I brought to him as I waved from my car.  These unprecedented times have touched all of us, across the globe, in small and great ways.  Too much suffering continues, and many lives continue to be lost.

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Welcome Newly Elected Board Directors!

By Marcia Martínez-Helfman, JD, MSW
2019-2020 IOA President

The annual election of IOA Directors has just concluded, and I’m delighted to report the results. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the Nominations and Governance Committee, Board of Directors, and all IOA members for participating in the election process!

We are excited to welcome three new directors to our Board:

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IOA Board Nominations Are Open Until 18 November

By Steven D. Prevaux, Chair, Nominations & Governance Committee

Tis the season for autumn leaves turning, friends and family returning and candidates yearning. Earlier this week the IOA Board of Directors issued the annual “Call for Nominations” seeking eligible candidates to run for election to serve on the IOA Board. We encourage you to reflect on this opportunity to nominate excellent colleagues for this amazing opportunity!

As a voluntary association, we thrive on practicing the very principles that we encourage our organizations to provide such as fairness, empowerment, and inclusivity. We celebrate the deep variety of experiences, talent, and perspectives of our members and invite your participation.

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Contract Conference Ombuds Task Force Seeks Resource Materials

By Roy Baroff, COOP® , Faculty/Staff Ombuds, NC State University, and IOA Board Member

Greetings IOA members! 

Let us introduce the Contract Conference Ombuds Task Force and ask for your help. This is a new Task Force focused on developing resources to help ombuds and organizations planning for conference ombuds services. IOA is receiving requests for this type of information and a number of organizations are seeking and providing ombuds services at their conferences.  Thus, the Task Force was created and we are meeting to discuss and develop materials. Along the way, the Task Force provided some assistance to the Society for American Archaeology with the outcome being the job posting you may have seen on the IOA job board.

With this in mind, we want your help. Have you worked as a contract conference ombuds and do you have materials related to your work that you could share with the Task Force? We are seeking contracts, charters/terms of reference, job descriptions, and any other materials that we can potentially share on our resources page. 

Send materials to the Task Force Chair, Roy Baroff ([email protected]) and feel free to contact Roy for further information. 



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Update on the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education

by Marcia Martínez-Helfman, JD, MSW, 2019-2020 IOA President

Greetings, Colleagues –

I want to share with you this letter I received from the National Academies' Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education acknowledging the IOA as a founding member of this very important effort to address sexual misconduct in academia. IOA has made a four-year commitment to this effort. Hats off to Jessica Kuchta-Miller, IOA Board member and Government & Policy Committee Co-Chair, for bringing this opportunity to the IOA.

The Action Collaborative will host an annual summit every fall in a different part of the country. The Summit is an opportunity to gather information, engage in a dialogue, gain diverse perspectives on how to effectively prevent sexual harassment and abuse, and ultimately identify and elevate promising practices for preventing sexual harassment and abuse. This year's Summit will be held November 19 - 20, 2019 at the University of Washington in Seattle, and is free and open to the public. Jessica Kutcha-Miller and Chuck Howard will be attending on behalf of IOA, and will be sharing information about the value and effectiveness of ombuds programs with Summit participants.



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Read Chuck Howard's Ombuds Day Keynote Address

IOA Executive Director Chuck Howard gave the keynote address at the Ombuds Day event held on 10 October 2019 in Washington DC. Read on for the full transcript of Chuck's speech.Chuck Howard Speaking at 2019 Ombuds Day in Washington DC

This is the second year of Ombuds Day celebrations. Last year, the inaugural Ombuds Day event was held here in Washington to an overflow crowd with a waiting list. This year, there are three main Ombuds Day events—here, in Chicago, and in Boulder, Colorado—as well as an Ombuds Day event in Connecticut on October 15th, with the delay necessitated by lack of space for it on the 10th. We have several state proclamations—from the governors of Colorado, Maryland, Connecticut, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia, as well as proclamations from the Mayor of Washington, D.C. and from at least 8 local governments. There are also numerous events being hosted by ombuds offices at companies, universities, and other organizations.  I think this is remarkable progress for only the second year, and I hope next year’s celebrations will be even bigger and more numerous.


Before I turn to my main remarks, however, l would like to give a bit of background on what the ABA DRS Ombuds Committee is, what it has tried to accomplish, and how Ombuds Day celebrations came about.
I don’t know when the first ABA Ombuds Committee was organized, but one existed in the early 2000s, as it was very instrumental in helping to achieve ABA adoption of two important ombuds resolutions by the ABA House of Delegates in 2001 and 2004. These resolutions help standardize the terminology for the different types of ombuds programs—classical, advocate, and organizational. They also set forth standards for the creation and operation of these programs. These have been foundational documents in the growth of the ombuds field in the United States. this is remarkable progress for only the second year, and I hope next year’s celebrations will be even bigger and more numerous.

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IOA Announces Inaugural Executive Director

By Marcia Martínez-Helfman, 2019–2020 IOA President & Lee Twyman, Chair, Executive Director Search Committee

Dear IOA Members & Supporters,

The selection of an executive director concludes IOA’s organizational transition to a hybrid management model. We are pleased to have received a large number of very strong applicants deeply interested in the work of the IOA. Earlier this year, finalists were interviewed and the IOA Board of Directors unanimously agreed to offer the Executive Director position to Chuck Howard. Chuck will officially begin on 1 September 2019.We are delighted to announce that Charles (Chuck) Howard has agreed to serve as the inaugural Executive Director for the International Ombudsman Association.

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Changes on the IOA Board of Directors and a Call for Nominations

By Kerry Egdorf, IOA Board Member & Chair, Nominations and Governance Committee

On behalf of the IOA Board of Directors and with great appreciation, IOA says goodbye to two members of the Board who have resigned due to personal and professional commitments. Ruthy Kohorn Rosenberg served on the Board from April 2018 to July 2019, including one year of service as the IOA Secretary. Elaine Shaw served on the Board from April 2018 to July 2019, including four months of service as the IOA Secretary. We are grateful for their passion and participation! 

This July, the Board of Directors elected Ronnie Thomson as the new 2019–2020 IOA Secretary. Congratulations, Ronnie, and thank you!

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Promoting Our Profession Through Collaboration

By Christina Sabee, PhD, Employee Ombudsperson, San Francisco State University & Jessica Kuchta-Miller, CO-OP®, JD, Staff Ombudsperson, Washington University in St. Louis

A recent IOA press release about IOA’s participation in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education describes an exciting collaboration among 28 founding organizations and more than 50 sponsoring organizations. This initiative focuses on prevention, response, remediation, and evaluation of policies and practices for addressing sexual harassment on college and university campuses. The process of developing this collaborative began with the issuance of a June 2018 report from NASEM that focused on understanding the climate created by the sexual harassment of women on college and university campuses and in which the organizational ombuds role was featured. From there, NASEM hosted a convocation in November of 2018 during which members built on the recommendations from this report and other sources to discuss strategies and share practices that might address this important issue. The Action Collaborative was announced as an idea at this convocation.

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How Can IOA Be a Better Member Organization? A Conversation

By Cynthia Joyce, University Ombudsperson, University of Iowa, and Marcia Martínez-Helfman, Associate Ombuds, University of Pennsylvania and IOA President, 2018-2020

Marcia Martínez-Helfman: At the Annual Conference in New Orleans this year, I had the good fortune to meet Cynthia Joyce, a long time IOA member who has had a mixed experience with the organization. At my urging, Cynthia shared with me more about her concerns. The conversation was substantive, frank, and enlightening for both of us. Although each of us would be shortly going our separate ways from NOLA, we both wanted to keep talking and felt it would be instructive and constructive to share our exchange with a wider audience. So here we are. Our hope is that this is the beginning of an extended dialogue between the membership and volunteer leaders, through monthly blog posts, taking us to a better IOA! I want to start by asking Cynthia how long she’s been an IOA member, and to tell me about the early experiences with the organization, some of which left her with a bad taste in her mouth.

Cynthia Joyce: Marcia, I wanted to start on a lighter note and point out the connection between our two offices. The reason the University of Iowa has an ombuds office is Penn. A former UI president, James Freedman, came to Iowa from Penn, where he had served as a faculty ombuds. When he arrived on the UI campus, he asked where the ombuds office was, and, when told there wasn’t one, asked a faculty committee to explore the idea of starting an ombuds office. I think history matters, and I appreciate the fact that our office started in a positive way, providing a needed resource to campus, rather than evolving out of a crisis.

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Exciting Times for the IOA!

By Melanie Jagneaux
IOA Vice President

Wow! What a year we just completed! For the IOA, 2018 was huge. It was a year of challenge and a year of change, and one that has presented us with enormous opportunity. Colleagues across the IOA engaged in collaborative dialogues, reviewed and analyzed new opportunities, made important decisions, established structures and ultimately set up the IOA for a banner 2019!

Management Transition

In summer of 2018, the IOA Board initiated discussions to prepare a transition from Kellen to a new association management company (AMC) by the end of the year. As our AMC provides support to all of our day to day operations, making this change would be no small effort.


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IOA2019 Conference Registration Open!

IOA2019 Conference Registration Open!

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IOAConfEmail_Register NowWhite text on purple background – “Register now” – next to a line drawing of a figure in a circle.

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Registration is now open for the IOA 2019 Annual Conference in New Orleans! Visit the brand-new conference site to view a working agenda, check out the host hotel, and complete your registration today!

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