Ombuds as Agents of Systemic Change

By Camilo Azcarate, Ombuds for the European Southern Observatory

Ombuds are expected to act as agents of positive change for organizations. This is arguably one of the most important long-term contributions of the role. SoP 4.6 states that “The Ombudsman identifies trends and concerns about policies and procedures, including future issues and concerns… and provides recommendations for responsibly addressing them.”

However, this part of the role has not been, in my view, carefully explored. I am not aware of specific guidelines to help us identify what type of trends should concern us, and which recommendations may be most useful to address them. We may greatly benefit from more guidance on this part of our practice.

I believe it is useful to have a fixed point, a north star, to help us navigate the often treacherous waters of organizational life. This is particularly important if we are expected to serve as agents of change. For me, this star is human dignity.

Dignity is the inherent sense of self-worth that all humans share. Although different cultures may place different priorities in certain aspects of human dignity (i.e. stronger sense of belonging vs independence), human dignity is the product of millions of years of our evolution and, in that sense, a universal feature of the human experience. Dignity is our birthright: we are who we are because we have dignity.

I believe that the protection of human dignity should be a central goal of all social systems, including organizations. Human dignity can serve as the north star that prevents us from getting lost in the hazardous waters of organizational politics. It is the principle that may greatly help us in our role as agents of positive change in organizations.

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Comments on "Ombuds as Agents of Systemic Change"

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Elisa Enriquez - Thursday, April 25, 2019

Camilo, Without dignity, empathy and compassion, no person or organization can thrive. Your keynote a few years ago resonated deeply with me as an Ombuds and a human. It led to reaching out to Donna Hicks and having her come to Los Alamos National Laboratory to discuss the 10 elements of dignity and the 10 violations of dignity. Thank you for pointing this out again.

Dr. Mary P. Rowe - Thursday, March 28, 2019

Hi Camilo wonderful to see you are an OO for the ESO. and your North star idea seems particularly well suited! I agree.... I would love to hear examples...Tell us a story?

Mark H. Patterson - Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Very rich topic, Camilo. And an interesting "North Star" idea-- I'd love to hear some examples of the idea in practice.

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