IOA's Pilot Ombuds Program

Virtual Ombuds Services for the IOA Community

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IOA Members Seeking Ombuds Services

If you are an IOA member who would like to contact the IOA Ombuds, please use the confidential email: [email protected] or the phone number: +1 (512) 766-6455 to reach the IOA Ombuds, Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®.

If you have any questions about the IOA Ombuds please review our FAQ or reach out to the IOA office at [email protected].

Call +1 (512) 766-6455
Email the IOA Ombuds
View IOA's Ombuds Charter

The History of IOA's Own Ombuds

The International Ombuds Association (IOA) is a worldwide professional association committed to supporting organizational ombuds. In December 2019, the IOA Board of Directors unanimously voted to launch a pilot program to find an appropriate Conference. They started their search of an experienced organizational ombuds to provide this service to participants at IOA’s 15th Annual Conference 28 March–1 April 2020 in Portland, Oregon and contracted retired ombuds, Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®. Unfortunately, due to constraints imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the conference was canceled.

Following the cancellation, in April 2020, IOA began providing virtual ombuds services on a temporary basis to all members and others within the IOA community as people cope with the stress, uncertainty, and possible changes to their ombuds practice. This also supports the IOA’s mission of promoting the profession, providing service to all members and to set an example for other professional associations.

The ombuds program proved successful and in July 2020, the Board unanimously voted to extend the project and create the new position of IOA Ombuds for one year. The incumbent ombuds has agreed to continue serving in this role on an interim basis until a new ombuds can be found to fit the role.


IOA Ombuds RFP

In late August 2020, IOA released a new IOA Ombuds RFP

The International Ombuds Association (IOA) is seeking an organizational ombuds. This ombuds must be a confidential, impartial, informal, and independent resource that assists individuals and groups in managing conflicts and raising concerns in service of a highly effective and healthy organization and provides non-confidential feedback on issues relating to IOA members, arising from the conference, and any systemic issues to IOA as the sponsoring organization. IOA wishes to provide excellent organizational ombuds services to IOA members, Annual Conference attendees, and others in the IOA community. In addition, IOA seeks to provide an exemplary model of professional ombuds services and inspire other organizations to avail themselves of such helpful services within their own organizations and at their conferences.

View Full RFP
Submit a Proposal

Deadline: No later than 5:00 PM PST, Thursday, 17 September 2020


Elaine Shaw

Meet the Current Ombuds, Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®

Elaine Shaw, CO-OP®, a former IOA Board Member, has agreed to be our first IOA Ombuds. As you will recall, she recently retired from Pfizer where she worked for 18 years, the last 6 years as an Ombuds. In her “semi-retirement,” she is coordinating small claims mediation at the county level in Michigan, doing independent contracting as an Ombuds and providing conference Ombuds service to the Society for American Archaeology. She is a general civil mediator, conflict coach, world traveler, and free spirit; and is known to many around the IOA.

Elaine is available by phone at +1 (512) 766-6455 and via email at [email protected]. She serves as an independent, neutral, off-the-record, and confidential resource for members of the IOA community to discuss any concerns you may have regarding your practice, the profession, IOA, or other related issues and concerns. She will be able to provide information and a safe virtual place for people to discuss their concerns in a confidential way to explore options for any further action. She will not be authorized to serve as a place where notice of claims can be given to the IOA. Likewise, she will not have the responsibility or authority to investigate any issues raised.

In addition to serving as a resource to assist individuals during this period, Elaine—without breaching the confidentiality of any communications by people using the services—will provide the IOA feedback on the nature of issues raised and any insights or observations about systemic issues relating to the IOA.

In this #GoodDayIOA video, IOA President Melanie Jagneaux talks with our own IOA Ombuds, Elaine Shaw, about serving as a resource to members during these challenging times. Elaine is available to support you so you can continue to support your community.


IOA Ombuds Frequently Asked Questions

How do I contact the Ombuds?
Please use the confidential email: [email protected] or the phone number: +1 (512) 766-6455 to reach the IOA Ombuds, Elaine Shaw.

Is the IOA Ombuds an organizational ombuds?
Yes. Though now retired from this position, the IOA Ombuds served as an organizational ombuds for six years for an international corporation and was certified through  CO-OP®️ as a Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner®️.

 What is an IOA Ombuds?
The IOA Ombuds acts pursuant to the Charter for the IOA Ombuds and adheres to the IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice as an independent, neutral, informal, and confidential resource for people who would like to discuss ombuds profession-related issues or concerns.  The ombuds can assist a visitor in identifying or creating options for resolution, including referrals to formal channels with investigatory powers.  The ombuds may be able to provide effective and confidential assistance in addressing a visitor's issue or concern, but the ombuds is not, and is not intended to be a substitute for, anyone's lawyer, representative, or counselor.  The ombuds is not authorized to conduct formal investigations, determine facts or make business or policy decisions.  Because the IOA Ombuds is not part of IOA management, the ombuds is not authorized to receive notice of claims or complaints against IOA or its agents or representatives.

How does an organizational ombuds differ from a lawyer?
The organizational ombuds role is quite different from that of a lawyer, who is an advocate for their client and associated with more formal processes and the legal system.  An organizational ombuds maintains neutrality and impartiality when working with visitors and does not represent them.  Ombuds do, however, promote procedural fairness in the content and administration of an organization's practices, processes, and policies.  Though some organizational ombuds may have legal training and experience with issues of the law, they do not provide legal advice.

Is the IOA Ombuds the same as a Mediator? 
No.  While many ombuds are trained as mediators and often use mediation skills and techniques as one of many approaches to problem-solving and conflict management, the ombuds role is broader than and more connected to the organization than a mediator. A mediator is typically an outside professional focused on helping people solve a specific issue or problem as compared with the ombuds who has a broader scope of work.

What is the background of the IOA Ombuds?
Elaine Shaw has practiced as an organizational ombudsman, has served on the Board of Directors for the IOA and is a CO-OP® certified ombuds. She is also a trained mediator and conflict coach. She is comfortable with the MBTI and the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument as well as various problem-solving models. She is now semi-retired from the corporate sector and has worked with other professional associations as an IOA Ombuds.

 What sort of issues and concerns can be brought to the IOA Ombuds?
The IOA Ombuds can provide assistance with the full range of issues or concerns relating to their ombuds practice and the profession including, among others:

  • All types of identity-based concerns
  • Harassment (including sexual harassment)
  • Free speech and free expression
  • Integrity issues / Intellectual property / Research concerns
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Issues related to the IOA

 May I contact the IOA Ombuds for guidance concerning an issue I am having myself and also if I have a concern about others?
People may consult with the IOA Ombuds with a concern about a colleague or about something that affects themselves. 

Will my communications with the IOA Ombuds be confidential? Are there exceptions to this confidentiality?
Communications with the IOA Ombuds are considered confidential and will not be disclosed unless the ombuds determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm or unless, in the course of their communications,  the visitor grants permission for the ombuds to make a disclosure and the ombuds determines that it is appropriate to do so.  

What authority does the IOA Ombuds have? What authority does the IOA Ombuds not have?
The IOA Ombuds serves as an independent, neutral, informal, and confidential resource for visitors to discuss any concerns they may have concerning their practice or the profession.  The ombuds will be able to provide information confidentially and will provide a safe place for people to discuss their concerns in a confidential way to explore options for any further action.  The IOA Ombuds, however, is not authorized to serve as a place where notice of claims can be given to the IOA.  Likewise, the ombuds has not been authorized to make business or policy decisions or to conduct any investigations on behalf of IOA.

Is the IOA Ombuds part of a formal complaint procedure?
No.  The IOA Ombuds is an informal and purely voluntary resource. No one is required to use it, but those who do will be deemed to have agreed to respect and abide by the principles on which it was created and not to call the Ombuds to testify or produce documents related to confidential communications in any administrative or legal proceeding IOA has also agreed not to call the IOA Ombuds to testify or produce documents with respect to confidential communications in any administrative or legal proceedings.

Does the IOA Ombuds report to the IOA on issues they dealt with?
The IOA Ombuds—without breaching the confidentiality of any communications by people using the services—will provide the IOA with feedback on the nature of issues raised and any insights or observations about systemic issues relating to the work of the IOA.