Holding Space for Ombuds

By Alicia Booker, PhD, IOA President & Ellen Miller, IOA Executive Director

A Special Message to IOA Members

In the spirit of believing we are one humankind, and one global community, we must take time to pause and acknowledge the extreme devastation, pain, suffering, and grief that so many are experiencing in our community, our organizations, and in our world. As we move into the season of holidays and family celebrations, our hearts, and thoughts go to all who are suffering.    

We are living in a time of mass uncertainty. Humanity is plagued with conflict from political unrest, wars, human rights violations, pandemics, and vulnerable countries facing natural disasters. As professional peace seekers, we hear all perspectives in our roles and feel these pains in our lives. There are also inequities experienced by so many in marginalized communities that continue to weigh heavily on us, our organizations, and the visitors we serve.  

Many organizations are experiencing significant upheaval as feelings of anger, grief, sadness, confusion, and frustration emerge in settings not prepared to have such difficult conversations. Divisions are being amplified among people whose identities are rooted in religion, race, ethnicity, culture, and language. Tensions are rising and clashes are occurring on college and university campuses, within corporations, NGOs, governmental entities, and in other sectors.

As ombuds, we hold space for people who are struggling with how these events are illuminating feelings for them in our organizations while we are also processing these events for ourselves. Indeed, many ombuds may be struggling to maintain their neutrality in the face of these events. 

As conflict resolution professionals, we know that violence is never the answer and that the resulting trauma cannot be easily be eradicated – but it can be named, and we, as a community, can rally around each other with empathy and care.  

Please know that IOA is a place of support, and we have resources to help you help yourself and your visitors. Your colleagues and ombuddies are here to help you navigate your capacity and have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage you to reach out and connect with each other. The IOA Ombuds Team is also always available to help explore and process issues you are experiencing in your own organization or practice. 

As we continue to care for each other in these uncertain times, we will ensure part of our monthly Community Connections provides space to discuss issues with your peers. We will also devote November’s Community Connection to creating space for those in need.  

There are also resources we want to make readily available to IOA Members:  

Ombuds provide comfort and solace to those in need, and IOA is here to provide comfort and support to you, our community. Please know you are not alone. If you don't feel you have the support you need, please reach out to anyone on the Board, our Executive Director Ellen Miller or our Managing Director Lindsay Jennings.    

With Peace, Care and Understanding, 

Alicia Booker, IOA President, and Ellen Miller, IOA Executive Director

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