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Demonstrating Value to Key Stakeholders During Times of Transition and Virtual Ombuds Offices

Image of Sana ManjeshwarImage of Elizabeth Hill

By Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office & Sana Manjeshwar, Global Ombuds Manager, Chevron

We hope you are all staying well and resilient during these uncertain times. Since March 2020, our ombuds community has faced unprecedented challenges and recognized a heightened need to demonstrate value to our stakeholders. This article aims to illuminate how two organizational ombuds programs, Chevron’s Global Office of Ombuds (CGOO) and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Ombuds Office (UCBOO), continue to show their value to visitors, key stakeholders, and other internal and external audiences during these transient times. While our industries may differ, we have identified three effective steps to remain visible and impactful.

 

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Surfacing Gems from the Archives of the Independent Voice

By the Editor of the Independent Voice

The Independent Voice provides a channel to communicate happenings within the IOA, as well as insights on timely topics and practice reflections from members. This year, the Independent Voice expanded access to the blog so the public can benefit from this channel as well. As the current editor of this blog, I’ve gone through the archived posts to make sure links are still live and to assess the various topics discussed throughout the years. A result of this effort allowed me to experience the great wisdom shared throughout the years related to topics of discussion in our field, pathways for professional development, and practical skills shared to build our capacity for success in our role. This post is meant to highlight some of the archived posts as a means to share the wisdom conveyed with those that may be newly accessing this blog.

A Meatball by Any Other Name (originally posted 12-14-2018)

This post touches on an issue that I’ve seen surface as of late in social media chatter. It is an introduction to a greater JIOA article on the need for reflection on the title we assign for our work in this profession. After you read through this short article, I invite you to share your thoughts and reflections on where we can bring this conversation. [READ MORE]

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One Conversation at a Time

By James Laflin and Robert Werth

This article was originally published in the 2020 XVIII edition of the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, (CCCUO). The article is shared in its entirety here with permission of the Journal of the California Caucus of College and University Ombuds, (CCCUO). Please check the link above to access the full archive of this beneficial journal.

The Premise

Given the times we're living through and all the voices that need to be heard, the premise of this essay is that we need to get much better at listening to those voices; everyone's.  And we need to do it now; one conversation at a time.  So, what would that look like?  Here are a few small but challenging suggestions.

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Taking Our Ombuds Skills to the Protest: An interview with D.A. Graham

By Roy Baroff
NC State University, Faculty & Staff Ombuds
IOA Board of Directors

Bayard Rustin said: “When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge their dignity as a human being, their very act of protest confers dignity on them.” (with edits)

How do we bring our ombuds skills to the protest?

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Ombuds Self-care: COVID and Beyond

By Dave Carver, PhD
IOA Board of Directors

As the COVID-19 crisis continues with no end in sight, organizational ombuds are confronted with unprecedented challenges that could lead to new opportunities for expanding our unique independent, impartial, informal, confidential role. But first we need to find ways to take care of ourselves as we look forward to a post-COVID “new normal.” Self-care can be difficult when we are isolated and spending many hours each day staring at our computer screens. Even in pre-pandemic times the ombuds role is often a lonely one, with many of us working in solo practices or communicating virtually with distant visitors. So, here are some basic tips for ombuds staying healthy in both mind and body.

  • Practice a "quiet time" stress management method of your choice for at least 20 minutes daily. Some examples of quiet time practices include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, prayer, or positive affirmations.
  • Daily physical activity can help to ease stress and brighten your mood. Weather permitting, some direct sunlight and fresh air will provide a refreshing break from long periods of online interaction.
  • Spend a few minutes each day reviewing your strengths and accomplishments, including your goals and values. Avoid perfectionistic self-criticism and comparing yourself to others negatively.
  • Make a commitment to get 7-8 hours of high quality sleep whenever possible. Make sure your sleeping room is dark, not too hot or cold, and free from unnecessary electronic distractions. Don’t sleep with your smartphone! Avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption and stop working at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Stay in touch with supportive friends and family, while avoiding large crowds and shared public spaces as much as possible. Look for sources of humor in your daily life. Remember the old saying, laughter is the best medicine!
  • Spend a few minutes daily reviewing the things you have to be grateful for in your life.
  • Maintain regular contact with your ombuddies, ombuds allies, and other trusted colleagues. We need to maintain meaningful human contact, even when regular in-person meetings are not possible. And make it a point to reach out to others who appear to be struggling. We are all in this together!

In these times where stress may be high, what are some additional self-care strategies that help you cope? Please feel free to share in the comment section below.


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Surviving and Thriving

By Prof. Mary Rowe, MIT

Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo are illuminating our world like a lightning storm. These recent events inspire renewed commitment to understanding how organizational ombuds (OOs) can survive and thrive - for our organizations, for all our constituents and for ourselves. The humble questions below evolved to contribute to a recent sector meeting. Subsequent conversations highlighted the importance of these questions for all ombuds, and also the importance of our sharing the wisdom of each of us. If any of this is useful would you consider contributing ideas? (See the last paragraph.)  

SurvivingWhat IS surviving? 

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COVID, racism and the need for safe, accessible, fair and credible conflict management systems in organizations (and communities)

By Prof. Mary Rowe, MIT

COVID-19 and the murder of Mr. George Floyd have illuminated—like a lightning storm—the need for constituents in every job classification to find safe, accessible, fair and credible ways to express concerns within their organizations and seek help. We need effective conflict management systems in organizations, and every major system needs at least one safe, independent, neutral, confidential professional as an access point. It helps if there are people of color and women who serve as safe access points to the conflict management system. In addition, every system needs competent, independent, fair, formal investigations, and investigation teams should include women and people of color, or at least regular input from diverse professionals.  

 

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Letter from the IOA President - A Call for Fairness & Justice

Dear fellow IOA members,

Over the days following the senseless killing of George Floyd, people across the world have shared an outpouring of emotion from deep sadness to intense rage as the latest in a pattern of police violence against black people. I know that many of you may be feeling frightened, sad, hopeless, or angry; I certainly am.

It is at times like this that I realize how very important our role as ombuds is to the communities we serve. As ombuds, we are called to help, to heal, to educate, and to find solutions to our visitors’ issues. Perhaps our call to help has never been more important than it is today. No one person can heal the wounds of racism or prevent them from recurring. But as ombuds, we can do our part to help people address racism and other issues of violence or exclusion. We can be a voice to address systemic issues and fair processes whether with our visitors, with each other, within our organizations, or within our communities.

I imagine that many of you are plugged into the happenings in your cities and neighborhoods and are hearing loud pleas for help and outcries for change. No doubt, you are connecting and helping where you can. I hope you also feel comfortable asking for help, especially if these events are directly impacting you. I trust that you are activating your personal support networks, and I also want to remind you that your professional network in IOA is here for you, too. Please use our online Discussion Circles and the LinkedIn Organizational Ombuds Discussion Forum to share resources and support. Utilize the IOA Ombuds Program. Plan to join a Community Connections event. Reach out to our leadership team with suggestions for resources or action.

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The Magic of Independence

By Elaine Shaw
IOA Ombuds

When my husband traveled with me to Seattle for the IOA Conference a few years ago, I made him come to the Pecha Kucha event. “Pecha-what?” he asked without much interest. For those of you who don’t know, Pecha Kucha is one of the defining institutions of the IOA annual meeting. It is a time when a few brave souls weave their work, their life, their essence into a creative expression in brief 20 slide/20 seconds per slide presentation with a spoken (or sung!) narrative. My husband was reluctant, but agreed to sit through just one. After 6 or 7 speakers, each more creative, intense or emotional than the last, he was delighted. “You work with an amazing group of people.” (Interested in the 2020 online Pecha Kucha gatherings? Learn more.)

Indeed. I do. You are an amazing group of people. That’s why it’s daunting to imagine being Ombuds for Ombuds! As the first IOA Ombuds, I take this responsibility very seriously and I hope I measure up to your expectations. I have been reflecting on why some of you may choose to be in touch.

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Article Share: Difficult Conversations, Virtually Speaking

by The Independent Voice

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read fellow IOA Member Mark Patterson’s article published via Medium.com, I encourage you to take the time to read through Difficult Conversations, Virtually Speaking when you can. The article provides strategies to help us prepare to have meaningful conversation within the virtual platforms we are now heavily experiencing. The article is not only helpful for our own practice, but is worth sharing with your constituents as they would benefit from the strategies as well.

One aspect I found meaningful speaks to the importance of check-ins at the beginning of each meeting. Our work/family domain boundaries are blurred and having time to intentionally shift from one domain to the next can help develop presence in the meeting for all. What strategies do you find helpful in this article? What other articles would you like to share as we navigate this surreal world we are experiencing?

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Virtual Meetings and the Virtual Ombudsman

By Bruce MacAllister 
IOA Board of Directors

In these strange and challenging times, many mediation and ombudsman programs are having to make the switch to working virtually with visitors using a variety of web-based and telephone-based meeting approaches.  While much of my mediation and ombuds work has been based out of “brick and mortar” programs, since 2011, much of my work has also been global and virtual. 

Making the switch from face-to-face, in-person meetings to more distant substitutes poses some challenges, but over time I have discovered some tips that seem to help close the gap between the comfort and ease of sitting down together in an informal setting to building connections with visitors and others via phone or via conferencing software.  The goal of this posting is to offer a few tips to successfully bridging the gap between the comparative ease and comfort of in-person meetings to holding those meetings from a distance.

Tips:

Tip 1: Observe ceremony.  When a visitor comes to me for an in-person meeting there are several things that are important:


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Virtual Ombudsing

by Teresa Ralicki, CO-OP®, Ombuds, University of Colorado Denver

The following is adapted from a series of articles Teresa posted on LinkedIn. We encourage you to check them out, and then visit IOA's Discussion Circles to discuss your own strategies and experiences with others learning to ombuds remotely!

Virtual Ombudsing: Tips and Considerations

My first ombuds job was at the American Red Cross. Serving visitors located all over the country, and sometimes in other parts of the world, almost all of my work was done virtually for over 5 years. Needless to say, I got pretty comfortable ombudsing from afar.

Many organizations have shifted toward remote work recently. It is always important for ombuds to remain a vital resource for their constituents, but especially so during periods of rapid change and high stress. Over this next week, I will share tips for navigating Ombuds work remotely in a four-part series:  

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Warm Thoughts from the IOA President

By Marcia Martínez-Helfman, IOA President 2018-2020

My first thought when I woke this morning was that I should be heading to the airport to fly to Portland and the IOA’s 15th Annual Conference. The Foundations Course would have already been underway.  I’d be preparing for our Board of Directors meeting on Saturday and Sunday, and excited that the Conference itself would be underway beginning Sunday night.  I will truly miss the camaraderie, learning, sharing, and just plain socializing with you all.

Today, I return to my home office aka the dining table after taking time to plot and execute a strategy for replenishing my refrigerator and pantry.  My son, recently back from London and self-isolating, stood at the curb to pick up the groceries I brought to him as I waved from my car.  These unprecedented times have touched all of us, across the globe, in small and great ways.  Too much suffering continues, and many lives continue to be lost.

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A Couple of (Un)traditional Conflict Resolving Methods

By Reese Ramos, University Ombuds at Virginia Tech, IOA Board Member

As the IOA Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon approaches, I was reminded about how Portland got its name (and no, it wasn’t named Portland because it is a port). Apparently, Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrow, who both owned the claim to the land that would become Portland, wanted to name the new town after their respective hometowns of Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine. They couldn’t agree who should name this new town, but they did agree to flip a coin. After two of three coin-toss wins took place, Portland became the town’s new name after Francis Pettygrow’s hometown. When I first heard this story, I got a kick out of it thinking about what might have happened if these two had had a facilitator. Port Boston perhaps?

And how did coin-flipping become a method for resolving conflict?

Coin flipping began eons ago and the story goes that Julius Caesar, dictator of the Roman Republic, would intervene in serious litigations and render a decision. If he was not available to arbitrate, then a flip of the coin (which contained a rendering of his head) would take place. The belief was that the gods would decide the outcome, and Caesar, in absentia, concurred with whichever party called “navia aut caput” (ship or heads). And so Portlanders, in a way, can thank Julius Caesar for creating the process that helped two landowners resolve their conflict.

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Tensions & Progress in the IOA

By Mary Bliss Conger, Ed.D.

There is a lot to like about volunteering with IOA. First on the list is the collegiality, followed closely by myriad opportunities to learn, collaborate, and help shape the future of the ombud world. However, as an involved IOA volunteer, I’ve often been taken aback by how hard it is to get things done in this organization at times. This remark may seem harsh, but I sincerely offer it more as perplexed observation than sour complaint. Why, given the abundance of talent, good will, and motivation pulsing through IOA’s volunteer corps, is it so tough to see and feel progress sometimes?

Don’t get me wrong: It’s been a banner year for IOA--much has gotten done. A new management company, a public relations campaign, a new website, a new ED, a record-breaking conference, and more. Plenty of good work is happening. Even so, my experience these past six years has been that getting things done with IOA often feels harder--somehow more fraught, more confusing--than it needs to be. 

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Conference Highlights: Asia Pacific RAC in Manila

By Fred Wright and Sophia Qiao, AP-RAC Co-Chairs

The AP-RAC (Asia Pacific Regional Advisory Committee) held its 4th annual conference in Manila from 16-18 October 2019. Sixteen members and two guests were warmly and generously hosted by the Office of the Ombudsperson of the Asia Development bank (ADB).  

Wayne Blair, Ombudsperson, ADB together with his colleagues Gigi Alejandro, Arlene Pantua and Erson Palermo created a comprehensive and stimulating agenda dealing with a range of important contemporary issues confronting Omuds practitioners in the Asia Pacific Region.

Over the course of three days, participants dealt with sexual harassment in organisations (facilitated by Lily Xu, United Technologies); the ombuds' relationship with formal processes (Wayne Blair, ADB); the challenges of working in geographically dispersed and multicultural environments (Caroline Wanyonyi and Faye Antolin, International Committee of the Red Cross); and about the importance of personal and professional development through a regular, structured supervision program that supports ethical and reflective practice (Fred Wright, Govt of Victoria). Herb Waye, Ombudsman for  the Internet Corporation for assigned Numbers and Names, also facilitated an interesting and contemporary session about online dispute resolution; Gurmeet Kaur, Head Ombudsperson for Home Credit India, discussed the ombud’s roles around the evolving dynamics of Indian women’s empowerment.

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An ombuds... What? The challenge of bringing ombuds magic to Argentina

By Jacqueline Berzon, former corporate lawyer, current mediator and aspiring ombuds

How do you sell a service that nobody knows? How do you sell a service without being able to demonstrate its positive results? How do you sell a service nobody thinks is needed? How do you sell a service no one has experienced before? It is hard.

My name is Jackie Berzon. I'm 43 and I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I am a mother of two boys, a spouse, a lawyer, a mediator, an organizational coach, a foodie (this is not a minor detail!) and lately a lunatic promoter of the the organizational ombuds role in Argentina.

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How Inclusivity and Accountability Advance IOA

By Elisa V. Enriquez, LCSW,CO-OP ®, Senior Associate Ombudsman, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Chair, IOA Membership Committee

The International Ombudsman Association (IOA) was established in 2005 with the merger of the University and College Ombuds Association (UCOA) and The Ombudsman Association (TOA) following a period of transformation that led to establishing standards of practice for organizational ombuds. These standards were established on the pillars of neutrality, independence, confidentiality and informality. IOA’s mission is to “support and advance the global organizational ombudsman profession and ensure that practitioners work to the highest professional standards.”

In the 14 years since the inception of IOA, it has been acknowledged that some members must abide by institutional policies within their organizations which can limit their ability to fully adhere to the Standards of Practice, or SOPs. This has led to misunderstandings and those members often feeling excluded. There is tension over what it means to be an association of those in support of the organizational ombuds profession and those who should or should not be a full member of IOA. If members are not able to practice to the Standards, but are able to support the mission and conduct themselves professionally, they are considered full members in good standing by IOA.

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Some Thoughts on the Middle

By Kim Fulbright, University Ombuds, University of Cincinnati 

Wind tugging at my sleeve
feet sinking into the sand
I stand at the edge where earth touches ocean
where the two overlap
a gentle coming together
at other times and places a violent clash

Gloria Anzaldúa[1]
Borderlands/La Frontera





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The Visitor

By Ruthy Kohorn Rosenberg, University Ombudsperson, Brown University
IOA Board Member

I hear your footsteps slowing on the stairs.Hesitating at the top, You leave the carpet for the wood
Noticing the last direction, directions followed like bread crumbs
In this maze of a building.
And you
Hover just outside my door.

What will you carry through that door?
I will welcome whatever you bring.

I pause and breathe,
Gathering.
I still the aviary in my mind; fluttering, hopping, swooping.
Emails not returned, conversations just ended,
Emotions swirling from moments ago, not yet dealt with.
They finally take their places on the roost, and quiet.
My body poised













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