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Volunteer Spotlight: Shannon Lynn Burton – Research and Assessment Committee

By Tiffany Chen, Eastern Michigan University 
IOA Volunteer Coordination Committee

The IOA has always been both a passion and volunteer driven organization. We as part of the Volunteer Coordination Committee, but also IOA, would like to recognize the efforts of our volunteers that keep everything running. It is through our collective efforts that our organization has been able to develop and grow to what it is right now and more importantly what it will become in the future.

This Spotlight Post is to not only recognize some of our fellow IOA members, but also to make a shout-out to their amazing team that helps consistently push research for our work as ombuds on the edge and in the forefront.

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Ombuds Day 2020 Is Scheduled for October 8, 2020

By Ken Skodacek
CDRH Deputy Ombuds

Ombuds Day 2020 is scheduled for October 8, 2020, only 3 months away!  

As a reminder, the theme for Ombuds Day 2020 is "Ombuds: Unusual name. Important service."  The primary goal of Ombuds Day is to improve public awareness of ombuds. 

Our actions are intended to: 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Casino, Professional Development Committee

By Tiffany Chen
Eastern Michigan University, Volunteer Coordination Committee

The IOA has always been a passion and volunteer-driven organization. The Volunteer Coordination Committee, and IOA, like to recognize the efforts of our volunteers because without them we wouldn’t exist. It is through our collective efforts that our organization has been able to develop and grow to what it is right now and more importantly what it will become in the future.

This Spotlight Post is designed to recognize IOA volunteers as well as the wonderful training and webinar offerings that have been made available to both IOA members and non-members, through the efforts of the Professional Development Committee (PDC).

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Ombuds Self-care: COVID and Beyond

By Dave Carver, PhD
IOA Board of Directors

As the COVID-19 crisis continues with no end in sight, organizational ombuds are confronted with unprecedented challenges that could lead to new opportunities for expanding our unique independent, impartial, informal, confidential role. But first we need to find ways to take care of ourselves as we look forward to a post-COVID “new normal.” Self-care can be difficult when we are isolated and spending many hours each day staring at our computer screens. Even in pre-pandemic times the ombuds role is often a lonely one, with many of us working in solo practices or communicating virtually with distant visitors. So, here are some basic tips for ombuds staying healthy in both mind and body.

  • Practice a "quiet time" stress management method of your choice for at least 20 minutes daily. Some examples of quiet time practices include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, prayer, or positive affirmations.
  • Daily physical activity can help to ease stress and brighten your mood. Weather permitting, some direct sunlight and fresh air will provide a refreshing break from long periods of online interaction.
  • Spend a few minutes each day reviewing your strengths and accomplishments, including your goals and values. Avoid perfectionistic self-criticism and comparing yourself to others negatively.
  • Make a commitment to get 7-8 hours of high quality sleep whenever possible. Make sure your sleeping room is dark, not too hot or cold, and free from unnecessary electronic distractions. Don’t sleep with your smartphone! Avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption and stop working at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Stay in touch with supportive friends and family, while avoiding large crowds and shared public spaces as much as possible. Look for sources of humor in your daily life. Remember the old saying, laughter is the best medicine!
  • Spend a few minutes daily reviewing the things you have to be grateful for in your life.
  • Maintain regular contact with your ombuddies, ombuds allies, and other trusted colleagues. We need to maintain meaningful human contact, even when regular in-person meetings are not possible. And make it a point to reach out to others who appear to be struggling. We are all in this together!

In these times where stress may be high, what are some additional self-care strategies that help you cope? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.


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Centering ourselves in community: Is it time for ombuds to embrace restorative approaches to our work?

By Ryan Smith
Assistant University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University

I started jotting down some notes for this post a few months ago, before the world was turned upside down. The changes and disruptions brought about by COVID 19, the murder of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, and debate around police reform have fundamentally changed the society in which we live. Many of us are waking up to a reality that others among us have been aware of for quite some time, that the old ways of doing things are often rooted in systems of oppression and inequality, and now is the time to reconsider what, how, and why we do many things that we have likely taken for granted. While the public debate around policing continues, we also need to look inward and consider the roles that we as ombuds play in our communities and organizations.

When I tell people that I am an ombuds, this is almost always followed by a puzzled expression and the question “what’s that?” My short answer to this question is that an organizational ombuds helps people navigate conflict with and within an organization. In beginning my post with this, I am providing a simple definition of our work. Conflict resolution work is complex and multifaceted, and ombudsmanry is just one way to approach it. One important constant, something that I must remind myself regularly in my work, is that the overriding value in conflict resolution work is in relationships and human connection. If these things weren’t important to us, we would have no need for conflict resolution work. Human relationships and connections, then, are essentially at the heart of the work we do.

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Surviving and Thriving

By Prof. Mary Rowe, MIT

Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo are illuminating our world like a lightning storm. These recent events inspire renewed commitment to understanding how organizational ombuds (OOs) can survive and thrive - for our organizations, for all our constituents and for ourselves. The humble questions below evolved to contribute to a recent sector meeting. Subsequent conversations highlighted the importance of these questions for all ombuds, and also the importance of our sharing the wisdom of each of us. If any of this is useful would you consider contributing ideas? (See the last paragraph.)  

SurvivingWhat IS surviving? 

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IOA Guidance Concerning COVID-19 and Contact Tracing

By Chuck Howard

Executive Director of IOA

Should an ombuds consider breaking confidence if the ombuds learns that someone has been diagnosed as positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to COVID-19 yet refuses to take action to protect others from further infection?

How might contact tracing affect ombuds’ confidentiality obligations and operational practices if either the ombuds or a visitor develops COVID-19?

These and similar questions have been raised with a request that IOA provide some guidance to IOA members on the implications of COVID-19 and contact tracing on their practices. As restrictions are being lifted and ombuds face the possibility of returning to their workplace offices and meeting with visitors in person, these questions take on added urgency and importance. In an effort to provide guidance to assist IOA members, IOA’s Executive Director prepared a memorandum with important information and recommendations on how ombuds might analyze these issues. You may access this important resource via this link:

COVID-19 IOA Memorandum

COVID, racism and the need for safe, accessible, fair and credible conflict management systems in organizations (and communities)

By Prof. Mary Rowe, MIT

COVID-19 and the murder of Mr. George Floyd have illuminated—like a lightning storm—the need for constituents in every job classification to find safe, accessible, fair and credible ways to express concerns within their organizations and seek help. We need effective conflict management systems in organizations, and every major system needs at least one safe, independent, neutral, confidential professional as an access point. It helps if there are people of color and women who serve as safe access points to the conflict management system. In addition, every system needs competent, independent, fair, formal investigations, and investigation teams should include women and people of color, or at least regular input from diverse professionals.  

 

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The Magic of Independence

By Elaine Shaw
IOA Ombuds

When my husband traveled with me to Seattle for the IOA Conference a few years ago, I made him come to the Pecha Kucha event. “Pecha-what?” he asked without much interest. For those of you who don’t know, Pecha Kucha is one of the defining institutions of the IOA annual meeting. It is a time when a few brave souls weave their work, their life, their essence into a creative expression in brief 20 slide/20 seconds per slide presentation with a spoken (or sung!) narrative. My husband was reluctant, but agreed to sit through just one. After 6 or 7 speakers, each more creative, intense or emotional than the last, he was delighted. “You work with an amazing group of people.” (Interested in the 2020 online Pecha Kucha gatherings? Learn more.)

Indeed. I do. You are an amazing group of people. That’s why it’s daunting to imagine being Ombuds for Ombuds! As the first IOA Ombuds, I take this responsibility very seriously and I hope I measure up to your expectations. I have been reflecting on why some of you may choose to be in touch.

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The Independent Voice goes public: Call for blog posts

By The Independent Voice Editorial Team

The Independent Voice is going public! We are so excited about the opportunity that we, as IOA members, will have to share insights and information with those outside of the Association who may want to know more about who we are and what we do as ombuds. In preparation for the launch of the public site, we’re hoping to collect posts that we can publish over time once the new site launches. You can help!

We encourage creativity and thoughtfulness as you communicate your own perspectives and experiences through essays, poems, interviews, thoughtful reviews, etc. If you have an idea, but you aren’t sure it would make a good blog post, we’d be happy to talk it over with you. This is a great way to share your voice in a way that can educate and inspire others to appreciate the work we do as ombuds. You don’t have to be a proficient writer, you just have to be willing to draft your thoughts and send them our way (https://www.ombudsassociation.org/ioa_blog_proposal)! 

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Article Share: Difficult Conversations, Virtually Speaking

by The Independent Voice

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read fellow IOA Member Mark Patterson’s article published via Medium.com, I encourage you to take the time to read through Difficult Conversations, Virtually Speaking when you can. The article provides strategies to help us prepare to have meaningful conversation within the virtual platforms we are now heavily experiencing. The article is not only helpful for our own practice, but is worth sharing with your constituents as they would benefit from the strategies as well.

One aspect I found meaningful speaks to the importance of check-ins at the beginning of each meeting. Our work/family domain boundaries are blurred and having time to intentionally shift from one domain to the next can help develop presence in the meeting for all. What strategies do you find helpful in this article? What other articles would you like to share as we navigate this surreal world we are experiencing?

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