The Foundations Course

Our Most Popular Course, Designed For New Ombuds

Introducing IOA Virtual Foundations

12 October 2020: Last week, we wrapped up 5 days of inspired #IOAonline learning during #VirtualFoundations. Major thanks to our talented VOLUNTEER instructors Lauren Bloom, Melissa Broderick, & Hector Escalante and to Mary Conger & Donna Louden for leading the virtual transition of the course! 

The Foundations of Organizational Ombudsman Practice course is offered multiple times each year in various locations, and now, online!

The course is designed for new practicing organizational ombuds and covers the fundamentals of the organizational ombuds role based on the principles of confidentiality, impartiality, independence, and informality. A limited number of scholarships are available to help IOA members take part in this course. 

The course is taught by an experienced and highly committed faculty of ombuds who will share best practices around running an effective office as well as evaluating and communicating the effectiveness of that office. Each in-person course is three full days. Each online course is segmented into four days. To ensure a meaningful and connected experience, each course is limited to 24 participants.

Participants will learn how to work with visitors; how to act as a change agent within an organization; and how to practice the key ombuds skills of listening, asking questions, clarifying, generating options, and moving to actions throughout the ombuds process.

In the Fall of 2020, IOA launched a virtual version of the Foundations Course. This four-day online opportunity offers attendees the chance to learn from the comfort of their own homes or office. Attendees engage in group learning via Zoom as well as self-driven online learning host on IOA’s Online Learning Center. 


Foundations Registration Information

2022 Virtual Foundations Registration Rates

  • $1,795 USD for IOA members
  • $2,095 USD for Non-Members

2022 In-Person Foundations Registration Rates

  • $1,695 USD for IOA members
  • $1,995 USD for Non-Members

2022 Foundations Scholarships 

IOA is offering a new opportunity to support four members who would like to attend a 2022 Foundations Course. This scholarship will cover the entire cost of the members' registration. It does not cover any additional costs. If an applicant has already registered for a 2022 Foundations course they are still able to apply for this scholarship.

Eligibility Criteria & Scholarship Requirements

  • Applicants must provide evidence of financial need
  • Applicants must be an IOA member
  • Applicants must provide one reference with their contact information in their application. 
  • Recipients must write a brief (1-2 paragraph) summary about your experience for posting on the IOA blog within one week following the foundations course.

After application review, four scholarship recipients will be selected from the pool of eligible applicants. All applicants will be notified in February 2022. 

Apply Now

The deadline for applications is 31 December 2021.


2022 IOA Foundations Schedule
10-13 January | Virtual
7-10 February | Virtual
7-10 March | Virtual
23-29 May | Virtual
20-23 June | Virtual
25-27 July | In-Person (Chicago, IL, USA)*
22-25 August | Virtual
17-19 October | In-Person (Baltimore, MD, USA)*

 *If it is not deemed safe to hold the course in person, it will be replaced with a virtual course held Monday - Thursday during the same week as noted above.

View the IOA Calendar for Courses

Is Foundations the Right Course for You?

Who should attend?

The course is designed for recently appointed ombuds. Its objectives are to help new practitioners: 

  • Recognize the dimensions and parameters of the organizational ombuds role
  • Reflect on their own personal relationship to the role
  • Develop basic skills to perform the role effectively
  • Learn best practices
  • Identify resources to learn more
  • Build a community of practice

As a result of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Recognize key characteristics and skills of effective ombuds.
  • Apply the ethical principles of confidentiality, impartiality, independence, and informality.
  • Use new strategies to build trust and show compassion with visitors.
  • Demonstrate impartial listening techniques, including how to paraphrase, reflect, and reframe.
  • Analyze visitor issues to identify positions, related feelings, and underlying interests.
  • Better assist visitors in exploring and defining options.
  • See the interdependence between how ombuds serve visitors and serve the organization at large.  
  • Align the ombuds function with the overall vision, mission, goals, and values of the organization. 
  • Work more effectively with organizational leadership.
  • Address common challenges to conveying the value and impact of ombuds work.
  • Appreciate the uniqueness and complexity of the ombuds role. 

This course is also beneficial for anyone desiring to enter the ombuds profession or establish an ombuds function within an organization. This course applies to ombuds programs in organizational settings. (Ex. industry, government, education, and public or private social services agencies). It does not address some features unique to other models of ombuds practice, such as classical, advocate, or legislative.

Other Resources & Related Courses

If this course is not quite what you are looking for. Take a moment to review the list of other helpful resources and tools below. 


IOA Foundations Course