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COFO Annual Conference 2021: Call for Presentations

By Paul Sotoudeh, Chief Ombudsman, USPTO Office of the Ombudsman

The Coalition of Federal Ombudsman (COFO) is pleased to announce its 2021 Annual Conference, being held virtually on October 15, 2021, and COFO’s Conference Committee is now accepting proposals to present at the conference.

The Annual Conference is focused on the needs of ombuds practitioners serving in the federal government, but the day is always an ombuds-wide family affair and we welcome anyone either practicing as an ombuds or interested in ombuds to join us as an attendee or presenter. Registration is free, and the conference typically draws around 200 attendees from across the ombuds profession and broader ADR community.

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Romanian Ombuds Success - Newly Translated IOA Standards of Practice & Code of Ethics

International Member Feature

IOA member, Dr. Eng. Ion Anghel, Director of PetrOmbudsman Department in Romania recently shared the exciting news that their department was celebrating its seventh year of activity.

As part of the celebration, the office wanted to contribute to increasing ombuds awareness in Romania. Dr. Eng. Anghel provided IOA with a Romanian Translation of the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. We are honored to now reveal this latest translation.

 

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Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools Article Share

IOA Member Feature

by Chuck Howard, IOA Executive Director

IOA members Armando Peri and Dawn Clement, ombuds with the Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools, recently shared an article on the valuable role they serve in connection with the special education process, which is subject to federal legal requirements.

These K-12 ombuds engage in extensive outreach efforts to help parents and others learn more about the special education process and are often asked to explain in understandable language the various legal requirements and procedures. They also serve as an informal resource for parents to share their concerns and to help them develop options for special education strategies. 

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IOA Member Featured on a Conflict Resolution Podcast

Anlaşabiliriz/We Can Find a Way Podcast

 

IOA member, Tom Kosakowski, University Ombuds at the University of Southern California and creator of The Ombuds Blog, was featured on the bilingual podcast, Anlaşabiliriz/We Can Find a Way last month. The podcast is hosted by Idil Elveris and this episode, "Ombuds helped universities to become compassionate," speaks to the benefits ombuds make on higher education campuses. Take a listen.


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Our Role in Building Greater Unity: Reflections on Recent U.S. Political Events

By Chuck Howard, IOA Executive Director

Americans—and much of the world—watched in horror at the violence and insurrection at the United States Capitol on 6 January 2021. However, this spectacle was only one of the most visible manifestations of the toxicity of intolerance that has leached into our politics and society over many years.

Not since the War of 1812 has the United States Capitol been under such an attack. As shocking and damaging as this outpouring of anger and retribution was, it is only one of the crises that we—collectively—are facing.

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Update and Request for the Ombuds Effectiveness Project

By Jennifer Mahony
Associate Ombudsman, NIH

Jen MahonyWhat are the mechanisms you use to create meaningful insight for your organizations?  How do you show that your ombuds office is valuable and effective? What frameworks are you using with your organization to define effectiveness?

In a recent blog post, Hector Escalante discussed The Ombuds Effectiveness Project as well as the work of Goal #1. Chuck Howard, IOA’s Executive Director, formed a project team led by Randy Williams and Ronnie Thomson to address these key questions. The Ombuds Effectiveness Project’s mission is “to equip ombuds offices with guidance, research tools, and training to measure and present effectiveness of their programs relevant to the stakeholder’s goals, in alignment with their organization's mission and values”.

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Standards Of Practice & Ethical Principles - Updated

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

UPDATED JANUARY 2021

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What to do When Abrasive Behavior Enters your Organization

by Mark Batson Baril, Resologics

In my work as an Ombudsman and conflict resolver I have encountered thirteen situations to date that have involved a leader with an abrasive leadership style. It’s been hard for me to admit, but it took eight of those cases over several years before I really understood what was going on — and what to do about it. In most of those eight cases the teams and organizations worked toward agreements that more or less stuck and the team’s performance improved. Yet, remaining underneath those changes was the abrasive behavior of the leader/individual that had not been addressed in a substantial way.

If this type of behavior exists in the organization we are working with and we have not been able to support the organization in working through it, we are merely enabling a patch to the problem and are not dealing with the underlying system at play. Eventually the negative outcomes from the abrasive behavior will negate any team improvements and come back to damage the workplace and, importantly, the people involved.

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Demonstrating Value to Key Stakeholders During Times of Transition and Virtual Ombuds Offices

Image of Sana ManjeshwarImage of Elizabeth Hill

By Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office & Sana Manjeshwar, Global Ombuds Manager, Chevron

We hope you are all staying well and resilient during these uncertain times. Since March 2020, our ombuds community has faced unprecedented challenges and recognized a heightened need to demonstrate value to our stakeholders. This article aims to illuminate how two organizational ombuds programs, Chevron’s Global Office of Ombuds (CGOO) and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Ombuds Office (UCBOO), continue to show their value to visitors, key stakeholders, and other internal and external audiences during these transient times. While our industries may differ, we have identified three effective steps to remain visible and impactful.

 

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Ombuds Practices: The Reach Out Initiatives

By Eliane Markoff
Ombuds - Bentley University

This reflection describes initiatives launched by my Ombuds Office to create a platform for faculty and staff to be empowered to address challenging situations in a timely and constructive manner. In addition, these initiatives create an infrastructure to proactively ensure practicing core values of collaboration and caring. The initiatives are referred to as Reach Out initiatives. The first initiative launched, Reach Out to Resolve a Conflict, outlined steps and best practices in addressing and resolving a conflict. 

The idea and inspiration came to me as I spoke with members of our community who wanted to resolve an issue or a conflict but were hesitant when too much time has passed or were a bit uncertain on the best way to proceed. During a dedicated week, members of our community were encouraged to reach out to those they have or had a conflict with.  Other initiatives focused on expressing appreciation, on apologizing and on requesting and providing constructive feedback.

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Covid Strategies: Mobilizing peers, and bystanders, and bystanders of bystanders

By Mary Rowe

Hello IOA,

I have been studying how peers and bystanders are being encouraged to support community values with respect to COVID. I continue to study peers and bystanders because I have come to believe that peers and bystanders are the principal constraints on unacceptable behavior in our society. (And I believe that this is especially true in constraining the unacceptable behavior of people who have a lot of power in any context.) 

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IOA Ombuds Office Effectiveness Project

By Hector Escalante, Ed.D, MFA
Ombudsperson - Pacific University

What are the top suggestions ombuds can use to show value to leadership? What tools can they use to make a case that their office deserves to exist? Recently, Chuck Howard, IOA’s Executive Director formed a team led by Randy Williams and Ronnie Thompson to address these key questions. The Ombuds Effectiveness Project’s mission is “to equip ombuds offices with guidance, research tools, and training to measure and present effectiveness of their programs relevant to the stakeholder’s goals, in alignment with their organization's mission and values”.

In today’s uncertain and unstable environment, this mission is critically important for ombuds offices. Many ombuds offices may be at risk for closure. I recently experienced the possibility of my office being closed because of new leadership and extreme budget cuts. Fortunately, with the help of IOA, close ombuds colleagues and my university stakeholders, I was strategically able to convince our new leader that the ombuds role brings tremendous value to him as a leader and to the greater university community.

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One Conversation at a Time

By James Laflin and Robert Werth

This article was originally published in the 2020 XVIII edition of the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, (CCCUO). The article is shared in its entirety here with permission of the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, (CCCUO). Please check the link above to access the full archive of this beneficial journal.

The Premise

Given the times we're living through and all the voices that need to be heard, the premise of this essay is that we need to get much better at listening to those voices; everyone's.  And we need to do it now; one conversation at a time.  So, what would that look like?  Here are a few small but challenging suggestions.

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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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My Diversity & Inclusion Journey

Diversity Inclusion Word CloudBy Sana Ansari Manjeshwar
IOA Board Member

On the impact of including D&I principles in my Ombuds practice…

Sana_Manjeshwar_8x10I identify myself as an Asian, British, American female, raised in Nigeria, England and India, living in Texas and practicing spirituality inclusive of all religions. I used to think that my background represented the image of diversity and inclusion. I was wrong.

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is so much more than the representation of various genders and ethnicities. It means practicing a diverse and inclusive mindset where you are seeking different perspectives in the workplace and providing an environment where each person is valued for his/her/their distinctive skills, experiences, and viewpoints.


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Independence & the Two-Edged Sword

By Bruce MacAllister
IOA Board Member

As a part of my service on the IOA Board of Directors, I am co-chair for the Standards of Practice Task Force. Like all members of this task force, I appreciate that the Standards form the core basis for our practice and that there are deep implications to identifying any potential issues with them. Yet my time on this task force has led me to ponder each of the major elements of the Standards.

Through this process, I have compared my own experiences across a long and varied career with those of other colleagues in light of our standard of “Independence.” One common assertion has been that, to comply with the Standards, adequate independence required that ombuds refrain from participating in the social fabric of their workplace. So, activities like meeting a colleague for lunch were out of the question. I have discovered through my own experience as well as observing the practical experience of others, however, that the implications of independence and neutrality become more intricate when practiced in the context of real-life human dynamics.

The expectation that an ombuds is to be viewed as a trusted, competent, respected, and independent member of the risk management community becomes far more complex when evaluated in light of how trust and respect actually form. One might assume that it is imperative to maintain a healthy state of “remoteness” and distance from those with whom the ombuds may need to engage to avoid any perception of non-neutrality. However, when one factors into the equation the key elements necessary to foster trust, effective communication, and an appropriate degree of influence (not over the outcome, but relevant to the need for action) that remoteness can work at cross purposes to building trust and rapport.


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In Appreciation of My Networks

by Bryan Hanson, Ombudsperson, The Graduate School at Virginia Tech

Working as an ombudsman creates a sense of isolation at times, especially when you are a sole practitioner within an organization. This is a dynamic that became my reality when I took on the role of ombudsman for a university in a rural community. Throughout my career as a conflict engagement professional, I’ve relied on strong networks to help me through phases of my professional development. Fortunately, I’ve been located in communities that had many experienced professionals with whom I could engage and work on a regular basis. Now that I am in a rural community, I must rely on networks that I maintain from a distance.

As a newcomer to the ombudsman profession, I am finding that access to a strong network of support is critical as I navigate the situations I encounter on a daily basis. However, as I become more focused in my work as a conflict practitioner, I have realized that not only is my geographic location a challenge, the wider community of professionals sharing this role is much smaller. Fortunately, I am finding that my colleagues serving as ombudsmen in other institutions are very open to communication and engaging on a level that provides the needed support to ensure that I remain on the right path.

It is with great appreciation that I felt the need to acknowledge the level of support these networks provide and also to encourage others to foster the networks available to them. To do this I wanted to share my story of network development as an ombudsman in a rural community and hope that it inspires the sharing of other ombudsmen’s experiences with the networks that support them. By illustrating the many opportunities to get engaged with those that can be supportive of our success in our role, this interchange will hopefully benefit others new to the field and those who simply feel they could gain value by expanding their networks.

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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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