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One-Sided Conflict Resolution

By Roy Baroff, CO-OP®, MA, JD
Faculty & Staff Ombuds, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

It was the title that caught my eye. How can you resolve a conflict with someone else without actually engaging that person? That’s what I was thinking when I signed up for this pre-conference workshop at the International Ombudsman Association Annual Conference in Minneapolis. I was also intrigued by the presenter, Nicole Gravagna, Ph.D., who has a background in neuroscience and the venture capital world. (She wrote Venture Capital for Dummies.)

So, what’s this all about and how can it help me in my work as the NC State faculty & staff ombuds?  I will not provide all the details of the session, yet it is worth mentioning that we started out by shaping Playdoh© into parts of the brain with a focus on the ACC  – Anterior Cingulate Cortex.

Can you identify these parts of the brain?

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Organizational Ombudsing: Back to the Future

By Dave Carver, PhD, Student Ombudsperson, University of Nebraska Medical CenterDave Carver
IOA Board Member
[email protected]

In higher education the start of the fall semester is a time to welcome new and returning students while also taking a fresh look at traditional perspectives. It is in that spirit that I offer a few thoughts on the future of organizational ombudsing.

First, I think we can all agree that our IOA version of the ombuds role is unique, valuable, and worth preserving. There’s nothing quite like it.  I would also point out that at least in academia, the ombuds role was practiced effectively long before the IOA and the Standards of Practice (SOP) ever existed. I first came in contact with a university ombudsman as an undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University in the early 1970s. Although the SOP were still unwritten at the time, our campus ombudsman was indeed confidential, impartial, independent, and informal–pretty much as we use those terms today. Was that just a coincidence? I don’t think so because the role was being replicated on campuses across the country.

Those early academic ombuds pioneers fulfilled previously unmet campus needs for informal dispute resolution and fair process advocacy in a somewhat magical, behind the scenes manner. Although I’m not as familiar with the evolution of ombudsing in the corporate world and other organizational sectors, I think the role emerged in a similar way. The original organizational ombuds all came from a multitude of professional disciplines and work backgrounds. There were no sequential degree programs or step-wise career paths required. This was still the case when I became an ombuds in 1996 and remains true today. It is a large part of what makes the ombuds role special to the organizations that we serve.

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A Review of Communities of Practice in the Ombuds Community

By Shannon Lynn Burton, Ph.D.
Associate University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University

Through the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), ombuds around the world learn their roles and connect with others in the field through the annual conference, training, and webinars, as well as through the various publications sponsored by IOA. These interactions allow us to network with individuals both in and outside our professional sector. However, for some, the large conferences might seem overwhelming and might not address the particular needs of a sector or issue. To meet these needs, sector-specific or region-specific meetings have emerged. These meetings allow for greater connection within sectors or regions and create a space for deeper conversation about specific issues. These groups, some of which are informally part of the larger IOA umbrella, can be defined as “communities of practice.”  In 1991, theorists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger coined the term “communities of practice” in their work examining legitimate peripheral participation. Legitimate peripheral participation describes the ways in which newcomers to a group become experienced members through low-risk activities whereby they become familiar with the organization, values and language of the group or community. Individuals form “communities of practice” when they engage in collective learning or in a shared human endeavor.

This past June, two such communities of practice met at Michigan State University. The first was the Summer Meeting of Academic Ombuds, a group that has met for the last 15 years to discuss ideas and support networking among those in the academic sector. A smaller group, the Michigan Caucus of Educational Ombuds, met for the third time to examine issues particular to their expanding group, as well as needs particular to those in the State of Michigan. MSU extended their hospitality as the kick-off to the celebration of the 50th year of their ombuds office, but more importantly, to contribute to these particular communities of practice.

Academic Conference

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