Progress on Revising IOA's Standards of Practice & Code of Ethics Revisions

What Is Changing & Why Is It Important?

By IOA SOP & COE Working Group

In the Fall of 2020, the IOA Board of Directors presented revised drafts of the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics to the IOA membership for feedback (more information is available on The Independent Voice). We received many comments via our survey questionnaire, during listening sessions, and in individual communications. The majority of the comments supported the proposed changes, but there were a number of members who offered valuable constructive criticism and specific suggestions.

Next, the Board convened a working group to methodically review and evaluate the comments and suggestions from members. That group met weekly and conducted a section-by-section, paragraph-by-paragraph review of the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, incorporating many of the suggested edits. The working group exercised its best judgment to reconcile many conflicting member suggestions.

Review the Latest Revisions to the Standards of Practice & Code of Ethics and Share Feedback

As a result, both proposed documents have been substantially revised. Copies of the updated Standards of Practice (SOP), Code of Ethics (COE) are now available for members to view alongside a detailed comparison chart for the Standards of Practice which explains the rationale behind proposed changes and the retained language.

Standards of Practice
Code of Ethics
Comparison Chart

Here are some highlights of the key changes and updates included in the latest draft:

  • Simplified and more specific Preambles, which articulate foundational principles such as fairness.
  • An expanded COE that includes Core Values and identifies the Fundamental Principles on which organizational ombuds programs are based.
  • Updated language that articulates each unique, foundational aspect of our work in a discrete, focused paragraph. This resulted in a clearer, better defined, more affirmative COE and SOP.
  • Elimination of redundancies within and across SOP sections except when the repetitive language is necessary for emphasis and precision.
  • Obligating BOTH the ombuds and the organization creating the program to protect confidentiality of ombuds information.
  • A new standard (found in the new SOP paragraph 4.4) that creates a “terms of use” agreement that visitors will abide by the principles on which the ombuds program was created. This includes not calling on the ombuds to testify or produce confidential information in formal, legal, or disciplinary matters, reinforcing our foundational principle of confidentiality.
  • Defining “confidential information” as a term of art, while creating an express expectation that both the ombuds and the organization will take reasonable measures to protect confidential information.
  • Improved sequencing within each major section. For example, the requirements for confidentiality are followed by the exceptions to confidentiality.
  • Adding an additional exception where confidential information may be disclosed, specifically "as necessary for Ombuds to defend themselves from a claim of professional misconduct."
  • A new standard (found in new SOP paragraph 5.5) for opposing disclosure of confidential information. While at first blush this language may appear legalistic, it closely parallels widely recognized and accepted language regarding mediator confidentiality.

How to Share Your Feedback Via the New Survey and at One of the Town Hall Meetings

The IOA Board is firmly committed to a process that offers multiple opportunities to share your suggestions and comments. To this end, members are invited to comment on the updated drafts via an online survey, and/or by participating in either of two Town Hall sessions. Completing this survey in advance of the member meetings will help us to address concerns expressed at those meetings, but it is also fine to complete the survey after attending a Town Hall session.

Complete the Survey

Town Hall Option One

25 January 2022
8:00 AM –9:00 AM Pacific Time

View Recording

(Member login is required to view.)

Town Hall Option Two

25 January 2022
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Pacific Time

View Recording

(Member login is required to view.)

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The Timeline & Process for Change

Our plan is to collect and review feedback from the survey responses and member comments received during the two Town Halls, make any additional changes that we think are necessary based on that feedback, and present a proposed final revised SOP and COE to the Board for its consideration at the March 2022 Board of Directors meeting.

As noted, member comments on the previous draft most definitely improved the latest version. We appreciate and share your passionate commitment to our SOP & COE, but we also recognize that the current 2009 documents are outdated and badly need revision. After many years of effort, we are looking forward to bringing this redrafting process to conclusion.

Lastly, we acknowledge that changes to the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, and IOA's name and brand, will result in the need for many ombuds offices to make corresponding changes on their websites and materials where IOA or the COE and SOP are referenced. We encourage you to be thinking ahead and planning for these changes, which will take effect following final adoption by the Board.

Please send any questions about the process outlined in this memorandum to Dave Carver, the former Co-Chair of the IOA Standards of Practice Taskforce, and the current Board Working Group contact person (email: [email protected]; phone: +1 402-559-2491).

Thank you,

IOA SOP & COE Working Group:
Dave Carver
Chuck Howard
Bruce MacAllister
Steve Prevaux

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