The Foundations Course

Our Most Popular Course, Designed For New Ombuds

“Foundations of Organizational Ombudsman Practice” is offered multiple times each year in various locations, and now, online! The course covers the fundamentals of the organizational ombuds role based on the principles of confidentiality, neutrality, independence, and informality. Learn how to work with visitors to an office as well as how to act as a change agent within your organization. Practice key ombuds skills of listening, asking questions, clarifying, generating options, and moving to actions throughout the ombuds process. In addition, an experienced and highly committed faculty of ombuds will share best practices around setting up an office and evaluating and communicating the effectiveness of the office.

Virtual Foundations Courses Introduced in 2020 

Foundations will be taught virtually beginning in the fall of 2020. In-person courses will also resume when it is safe and possible to do so. Like the in-person course, Foundations online will be taught by a team of at least three experienced ombuds. Synchronous learning will take place via Zoom in roughly 3-hour class sessions each day for one week, Monday through Friday, plus an additional 3.5-hour session on Wednesday. To ensure a meaningful and connected experience, each virtual course offering will be limited to 24 participants.

Adapting the course to a virtual platform provides new opportunities to serve the ombuds community. An online course can be offered more frequently, which we hope will satisfy the needs of eager participants from canceled in-person events as well as address future registrants in a timely fashion. Virtual Foundations will also leverage IOA’s Online Learning Center to keep learners engaged and organized before, during, and after their course. And, of course, Foundations can now be accessed by ombuds around the world without the barriers inherent in travel. 

Virtual Foundations will first be offered in October 2020 with class sessions conducted in the Eastern Time Zone (UTC -4). Further online Foundations offerings are scheduled monthly through March 2021; time zones will vary as instructor availability allows. 

Registration will be prioritized for those that were registered for a canceled course in 2020.

Find an Upcoming Course

More About the Foundations Course

Each in-person course is three full days and limited to 24 participants. Each online course includes 3-hour class sessions each day for one week, Monday through Friday, plus an additional 3.5-hour session on Wednesday, and is limited to 24 participants.

This course regularly sells out, so be sure to register early!

As a result of this course, you 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. 

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


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

IOA Foundations Course