June 02, 2010

Resources Online and Beyond for the Aspiring Ombuds

Diane Levin recently offered a list of essential resources for aspiring mediators. Many of these are good resources for aspiring Ombuds and her blog, Mediation Channel, should be regular reading for anyone looking at a career in dispute resolution. Here are some other suggestions for people looking to become Organizational Ombuds.

Current Best Practices

The International Ombudsman Association is the leading association for Organizational Ombuds and its Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice reflect current professional practices. In addition, IOA's statement on Best Practices and the Journal of IOA provide more recent updates and commentary on prevailing standards.

In 2009, the Board of Certification for Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioners was established for the purpose of awarding the Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner (CO-OP) credential. One of the objectives of the certification program is to encourage consistent practices by Ombuds.

Blogs and Other Websites

A few Organizational Ombuds write blogs. These do not offer any details about specific cases, but do give some insights on current issues from an Ombuds' perspective. The notable blogs include: Conflict Benefit Blog by John Zinsser (consultant/owner of Pacifica Human Communications), ICANN Ombudsman Blog by Frank Fowlie (Ombuds for the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), Untangled Resolutions by Bathabile Mthombeni (Ombuds at Columbia University), and Friede Blog by Wende Friede (former Corporate Ombudsperson for American Express).

For the larger universe of dispute resolution, there are an abundance of blogs that will be relevant to aspiring Ombuds. In addition to the aforementioned Mediation Channel, I also recommend ADRHub, Mediate.com, and Campus-adr Tech Blog.


There is really only one authoritative text about the field, Chuck Howard's The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations - A Legal Guide. The primary purpose of the book is to demonstrate why a properly constituted Organizational Ombuds program should be entitled to a confidentiality recognized in American law. Although this is comprehensive legal reference work, there no book about the day-to-day work of an Organizational Ombuds.

IOA publishes a few books about specific issues ("Reprisal, Retaliation and Redress," "Dealing with the Fear of Violence, "Options, Functions and Skills," etc.), but these are merely short brochures that need updating.

Making Connections With Working Ombuds

Aspiring Ombuds will find that current practitioners are generally willing to share insights and information about the field. Although most Organizational Ombuds will respond to "cold calls," it is often easier when there is a connection. For this reason, many will contact the Ombuds at their alma mater. It is also easy to make connections at an IOA training or annual conference. Although these are expensive, these are an excellent introduction to the field.  Aspiring Ombuds can also make virtually connections through groups at LinkedIn and Facebook.

The Spectrum of Ombuds

Organizational Ombuds are a recent development in the Ombuds field and aspiring Ombuds should know the differences and similarities between the various models of practice. One place to start would be the 2004 American Bar Association white paper, "Standards for the Establishment and Operation of Ombuds Offices," that outlined the differences between Legislative, Executive and Organizational Ombuds models. More information about Legislative and Executive Ombuds (often lumped together as "Classical" Ombuds) can be found at the the International Ombudsman Institute.

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