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Updates from the JIOA

By Shannon Burton
JIOA Editor

Dear IOA Colleagues,

The Journal of the International Ombudsman Association (JIOA) has been busy these past few months!  Please visit our website if you have not done so recently.  There are new articles and book reviews posted.  These include:

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My #OmbudsDay2020 Playlist

By Michael Green

With #OmbudsDay 2020 around the corner, I received a ‘challenge’ from a few colleagues and members of IOA. They, knowing of my passion for creating meaningful playlists, suggested I curate a list of songs for this event taking place on October 8th, 2020. I took this informal invitation as an opportunity to craft some songs for personal reflection and professional development. Using the lens of an ombuds, with an eagerness to serve communities and listen to the issues facing organizations, institutions, and everyday people, I developed the playlist that follows.

It was my intention to utilize art, in this case music, as a mechanism for awareness into the lives of the people who walk through the doors of ombuds offices. I attempted to absorb the complexities and dynamics that various populations are being forced to face during this turbulent year and mold that into a list of songs that could provide insight for those of us working with those populations. I believe that being intune with the culture of our constituents is vital to our impact. It is my hope that my fellow ombuds (former, current, and aspiring) can use this playlist to reflect on the past year, enhance their current practice amidst major societal shifts, and as a means to inspire transformation as we move forward. There is much work to be done, but I think if we listen intently to those we serve we will be better ombuds, better global citizens, and better human beings.

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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force Announcement

by Melanie Jagneaux, CO-OP®, IOA 2020-2021 President

In July of 2020, the IOA Board unanimously approved the establishment of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force. This task force will help IOA internally evaluate itself on aligning with anti-racism practices and racial justice. It will also define parameters for ensuring IOA cultivates a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment that supports membership belonging and connection within the organization.

Initial work of the DEI Task Force will be to propose a position statement for IOA regarding racism and racial injustice and recommending any changes to the Terms of Reference for the task force that will better articulate its purpose, composition, authority, and role in relation to the IOA Board of Directors. More importantly, the task force will be critical in the process of profound reflection and examination of how our organization may have contributed to the perpetuation of racial injustice, whether intentional or unintentional. Ultimately, the work of this new task force must be focused on action—that is, doing our part to dismantle the structures, processes, and practices that have reinforced racial injustice—and then building a way forward that advances racial justice, belonging, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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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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JIOA Seeks New Peer Reviewers

By Shannon Burton
University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University
JIOA Editor

Do you have broad interest in ombuds work?

Do you want to help the profession advance intellectually and pragmatically?

If so, then please consider applying to serve as a Peer Reviewer for the Journal of the International Ombudsman Association (JIOA). The Journal of the International Ombudsman Association (JIOA) is a peer-reviewed online journal for scholarly articles and information relevant to the ombuds profession. As members of a relatively new profession, we continually strive to understand, define, and clarify the role and function of the professional organizational ombuds. Serving as a Peer Reviewer for the JIOA is a great way to learn more about academic writing and research and gain new insights into the field as well.

Position Description: 

The journal’s reviewers use their expertise to comment and provide feedback on manuscripts submitted to the JIOA. Reviewers conduct blind reviews and are expected to complete them within eight weeks. As part of the review process, reviewers will recommend the manuscripts are accepted with no revisions, accepted with revisions (minor or major), or rejected.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Shannon Lynn Burton – Research and Assessment Committee

By Tiffany Chen, Eastern Michigan University 
IOA Volunteer Coordination Committee

The IOA has always been both a passion and volunteer driven organization. We as part of the Volunteer Coordination Committee, but also IOA, would like to recognize the efforts of our volunteers that keep everything running. It is through our collective efforts that our organization has been able to develop and grow to what it is right now and more importantly what it will become in the future.

This Spotlight Post is to not only recognize some of our fellow IOA members, but also to make a shout-out to their amazing team that helps consistently push research for our work as ombuds on the edge and in the forefront.

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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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Announcing Virtual Foundations of Organizational Ombuds Practice

By The Virtual Foundations Team

IOA is proud to announce we are expanding our popular Foundations of Organizational Ombuds Practice course to a virtual platform. We will be launching our first course in October 2020!

In late May, a small team of IOA volunteers—which includes experienced Foundations instructors and subject matter experts— began working with Springboard International, a consulting firm with e-learning expertise. The group began modifying and updating the Foundations format for success in an online environment. This work is currently ongoing and involves reviewing and updating existing content, identifying new modes for instruction, and developing asynchronous learning elements such as videos and reflection prompts. 

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2020 IOA Financial Update

By Lee Twyman, IOA Treasurer

The IOA 2020 budget has been significantly impacted by the cancellation of the IOA2020 Annual Conference and pre-conference professional development courses, cancellation of four planned Foundations courses (two at the conference and two scheduled for July of this year) as well as cancellation of one pre-conference core course. The current projected deficit for this year is $254,000. An important footnote here, over the past 5 years, IOA has worked diligently to build financial reserves and those reserves have provided a buffer for this year’s financial downturn and may provide additional reserves to draw upon for a couple more years.  However, just as in personal savings, we do not want to deplete the reserves any more than is absolutely necessary.

The Board and Finance Committee are working closely to remedy this budget deficit and bring IOA back to a positive net revenue within three years (if not sooner). All IOA Committees have been asked to voluntarily defer non-critical spending for the remainder of 2020, and we are looking for ways to gain back lost revenue.

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IOA Ombuds Program Extended

By Melanie Jagneaux, 2020-2021 IOA President

Dear IOA Members,

After a successful pilot program, the IOA Board unanimously voted to extend the IOA ombuds program. Our inaugural IOA Ombuds, Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®, informed the Board that she received calls from all sectors and across the globe. In addition, Elaine presented three ‘upward feedback’ concerns that inspired action of the Board concerning updates to members. Elaine also presented a written report to the Board on the program’s performance for the pilot period, which gave the Board the information necessary to review the program’s performance. The report was favorably received by the Board as it presents ombuds case information in a way that is both informative and reader-friendly. Given the quality and contents of the report, the Board unanimously agreed that IOA members would appreciate receiving the report. 

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IOA Standards of Practice Update

By Chuck Howard, IOA Executive Director

We wanted to give you an update on the progress of revisions to the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.  After the Professional Standards and Ethics Task Force presented its recommendations to the Board in fall 2019, some additional revisions were recommended. Earlier this year, the Board considered those recommendations and approved a plan to develop additional documentation to provide more background information for members to have in considering the work that went into developing the revisions. Unfortunately, that process was hampered and slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The good news is that we are moving on to the next in the plan.

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Ombuds Day 2020 Is Scheduled for October 8, 2020

By Ken Skodacek
CDRH Deputy Ombuds

Ombuds Day 2020 is scheduled for October 8, 2020, only 3 months away!  

As a reminder, the theme for Ombuds Day 2020 is "Ombuds: Unusual name. Important service."  The primary goal of Ombuds Day is to improve public awareness of ombuds. 

Our actions are intended to: 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Casino, Professional Development Committee

By Tiffany Chen
Eastern Michigan University, Volunteer Coordination Committee

The IOA has always been a passion and volunteer-driven organization. The Volunteer Coordination Committee, and IOA, like to recognize the efforts of our volunteers because without them we wouldn’t exist. It is through our collective efforts that our organization has been able to develop and grow to what it is right now and more importantly what it will become in the future.

This Spotlight Post is designed to recognize IOA volunteers as well as the wonderful training and webinar offerings that have been made available to both IOA members and non-members, through the efforts of the Professional Development Committee (PDC).

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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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Centering ourselves in community: Is it time for ombuds to embrace restorative approaches to our work?

By Ryan Smith
Assistant University Ombudsperson, Michigan State University

I started jotting down some notes for this post a few months ago, before the world was turned upside down. The changes and disruptions brought about by COVID 19, the murder of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, and debate around police reform have fundamentally changed the society in which we live. Many of us are waking up to a reality that others among us have been aware of for quite some time, that the old ways of doing things are often rooted in systems of oppression and inequality, and now is the time to reconsider what, how, and why we do many things that we have likely taken for granted. While the public debate around policing continues, we also need to look inward and consider the roles that we as ombuds play in our communities and organizations.

When I tell people that I am an ombuds, this is almost always followed by a puzzled expression and the question “what’s that?” My short answer to this question is that an organizational ombuds helps people navigate conflict with and within an organization. In beginning my post with this, I am providing a simple definition of our work. Conflict resolution work is complex and multifaceted, and ombudsmanry is just one way to approach it. One important constant, something that I must remind myself regularly in my work, is that the overriding value in conflict resolution work is in relationships and human connection. If these things weren’t important to us, we would have no need for conflict resolution work. Human relationships and connections, then, are essentially at the heart of the work we do.

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A Note from Chuck: Request for Ombud Stories

IOA Executive Director, Chuck Howard, Wants to Share Ombuds' Stories

Submit Your Story by 31 August 2020

I have exciting news—I am writing a new book! It is a follow-up to my original, The Organizational Ombudsman. My new book will take an even deeper dive into how ombuds work and will feature real examples of the types of issues ombuds encounter every day.

To help complete the book and educate ombuds and non-ombuds alike, I am asking for your help in sharing ombuds stories.

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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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IOA Guidance Concerning COVID-19 and Contact Tracing

By Chuck Howard

Executive Director of IOA

Should an ombuds consider breaking confidence if the ombuds learns that someone has been diagnosed as positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to COVID-19 yet refuses to take action to protect others from further infection?

How might contact tracing affect ombuds’ confidentiality obligations and operational practices if either the ombuds or a visitor develops COVID-19?

These and similar questions have been raised with a request that IOA provide some guidance to IOA members on the implications of COVID-19 and contact tracing on their practices. As restrictions are being lifted and ombuds face the possibility of returning to their workplace offices and meeting with visitors in person, these questions take on added urgency and importance. In an effort to provide guidance to assist IOA members, IOA’s Executive Director prepared a memorandum with important information and recommendations on how ombuds might analyze these issues. You may access this important resource via this link:

COVID-19 IOA Memorandum

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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