October 03, 2012

Differentiating Advocacy and Organizational Ombuds

Kathy Biala discusses the work of Advocate Ombuds and Organizational Ombuds in her latest blog post at Milestone MMA. She brings an unique perspective having been both. Biala is a Certified Long Term Care Ombudsman assigned to a 180-bed, skilled nursing facility and also as Campus Ombuds with a large university graduate medical education facility.

She focuses on one particular question, "How does the Organizational Ombuds serve the disempowered, underserved, vulnerable stakeholders that are well served by the Advocacy Ombuds?"  She explains:
It is imperative that all parties, whether in an advocate or organizational ombuds model, be allowed to have equal voice in expressing needs and expectations in a conflict.  Perhaps in the advocate ombuds model, the Ombudsman speaks more on behalf of the stakeholder to bring that equality of voice to bear.  The advocate Ombuds brings more assertiveness, more ability to “speak the language” to describe what’s needed, feels less intimidated by the “powers that be”, knows the procedures, etc.  The organizational Ombuds may use such skills but not predominantly for one identified party.

Furthermore, an Ombuds knows that a balance of power presents the best chance for a win-win solution; even the “underserved” or “vulnerable” have significant influence in outcomes, if one is able to identify these influences and mobilize them.   The skilled organizational Ombuds can find the interdependence among parties such that an expansion of different needs or goals can yield mutually satisfying agreements.  A concession by one party may be viewed as a loss to the other but a concession on one issue combined with an apology on another more emotionally charged issue may make it a win-win and may make all the difference in the world.  Conflicts are as complex as the individuals who are involved!

Lastly, the organizational Ombuds seeks to advocate for fair processes, but in situations where a process has not been utilized or not executed in a proper fashion, the organizational Ombuds may find themselves being an advocate for the individual in the pursuit of a fair process.  This situation would, of course, only be with the visitor’s knowledge and approval to act in such a capacity.
(Milestone MMA Blog.)

Related posts: UC San Francisco Ombuds Office Expands Service with New Extern; The Difference Between Mediation and Ombuds Work.

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