IOA Foundations of the Organizational Ombuds Course

Our Most Popular Course, Designed For New Ombuds

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


About the Course

The IOA Foundations 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. 

This fundamental course is packed with information on 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. 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.

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 hosted on IOA’s Online Learning Center


Foundations Registration Information

2023 Virtual Foundations Registration Rates

  • $1,895 USD for IOA members
  • $2,195 USD for Non-Members

2023 In-Person Foundations Registration Rates

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

Course payment is due at least four weeks before the course starts. Please review all payment, registration, and attendance policies prior to registering for a course.

View Course Policies

2023 Foundations Scholarships

IOA offers annual scholarships for the Foundations Course. The scholarship application window generally runs November-December of the year prior to the applicant's desired course year. Eligibility criteria and scholarship requirements involve financial needs, professional references, and a written summary of the recipient's experience from the course. This scholarship covers the course fee for either a virtual or in-person Foundations course. If the scholarship applicant elects to attend an in-person Foundations course, travel and lodging will not be covered by the scholarship.

2023 Eligibility Criteria & Scholarship Requirements

  • Applicants must be a member of IOA.
  • Applicants must not have additional financial support from their employer or other organization to attend a Foundations course.
  • Applicants must provide one reference with their contact information in their application.

After the application deadline, all applications will be reviewed by a committee and recipients will be selected. All applicants will be notified around February 2023.

Apply for a Foundations Scholarship

Foundations scholarship applications are due by Monday, 9 January 2023.


2022 IOA Foundations Schedule


2023 IOA Foundations Course Schedule

While we are not quite ready to open up registration for these courses, we wanted to give you a sneak peek at the schedule for next year. Due to the popularity of this course, we will be offering priority registration to those currently practicing in an ombuds role, or starting in an ombuds role within three months of the course date. If space remains closer to the course start date, we may be able to release some spaces to aspiring ombuds.

Want to know when registration opens, or if a space becomes available in a sold-out course? Join the 2023 Virtual Foundations Course Interest List.

2023 Course Dates

Join 2023 Course Interest List
View the IOA Calendar for Courses

Who should attend the Foundations Course?

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

"I took the IOA’s first virtual Foundations Course back in October of 2020, and I found it to be a very valuable experience. The instructors were knowledgeable and engaging, the material was presented in an organized way, and there were plenty of opportunities for both small-group and large-group discussions. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and learn from colleagues all over the world without having to deal with the expenses normally associated with travel."

— Dr. Julia Farmer, IOA Member


Participants of this course will learn how 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. 


Apply to Become a Foundations Instructor

The Professional Development Committee (PDC) is tasked with identifying qualified instructors and presenters who are willing to share skills and knowledge with ombuds from around the world. The PDC is excited to present its new Instructor Interest Form, which allows IOA members to apply to become an instructor or presenter for many of IOA's training opportunities. 

Learn More & Apply

IOA Foundations Course