February 19, 2014

Ombuds Certification Exam Set for April 2014

The Board of Certification for Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioners will administer its exam April 3-13, 2014. Passing the exam is a necessary step in obtaining certification as a Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioner® (CO-OP®). The registration window for candidates wishing to take the exam will be from February 10 - March 20, 2014.

The exam will be computer based and offered at over 300 testing centers throughout the world. Specific times to sit for the exam can be scheduled at any of the locations. For those candidates attending the 9th Annual Conference of the IOA in Denver, the testing center located at “TestProCenter, Inc.” in Centennial, CO has additional testing times available. An early registration discount is available before March 5, 2014.

Those interested in the CO-OP® credential are invited to an upcoming teleconference information session to be held on Monday, March 3rd at 10am Pacific Standard Time (1pm Eastern Standard Time). At that time, members of the Board of Certification will be available to explain the process, answer questions and provide information about what becoming certified entails. The call-in number for the teleconference is +1-605-475-6720 and the Access Code is 117-7612. (CO-OP Exam; CO-OP Info.)

Related posts:  First Ombuds Certification Exam: 96% Pass Rate; CO-OP Board Announces First Class of Certified OmbudsIOA Board of Certification Announces New Officers;IOA Posts Agenda for 2014 Conference in Denver.


  1. To anyone reading, I would like to recommend against it. I hope no one spends their money on this. Here's why: I worked as an ombuds (under a different title, as many of us do) for over a decade. I paid hundreds of dollars for the exam. I aced it. Then, after I passed the exam, I was interviewed and was denied certification on a technicality: one of the requisites wasn't strictly met. As many of us ADR practitioners know, not every organization gets it 100% right when it comes to creating and defining our roles, and placing an ombuds within the organization. Still, we practice in good faith and do our best to adhere to the IOA standards of practice and ethical standards. We take Ombuds 101 and learn that you can be an ombuds under other job titles. We help advance the profession by giving it our best and conducting ourselves with integrity.
    I paid from my own money to take the exam. I passed it. My employer's rules dictate that I could only be refunded if I got certified. I didn't, which means that I wasted money on nothing. I did not appeal, because I got so disgusted by how the process works. My understanding is that if you pass the exam with flying colors, you're at the mercy of your interviewer (who, by the way, told me he had a professional situation similar to mine) and can be denied certification. Why not screen candidates first, for less money, and if you are allowed to be certified then you take the exam? That, in my opinion, would be more honest. It felt very unfair, and it was a total waste of money. It lowered their credibility to zero, in my eyes. I have not renewed my IOA membership and will only do it if I have a good reason to do so. Warn your friends. I'm telling everyone I know.

  2. Jennifer Moumneh2/20/2014 11:28 AM

    Dear anonymous –

    I am sorry that you had a negative experience in applying to become certified. However I would like to point out that in order for anyone to become certified, he/she must meet a certain set of criteria. These consist of passing the exam, having a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent), having at least one year of full-time experience (or its equivalent) as an organizational ombudsman in an organizations which adheres to the IOA Standards of Practice (SOPs) and Code of Ethics (COEs), submitting an application and fee, and completing an interview which ensures that an applicant is practicing to the IOA SOPs and COEs.

    These requirements are the same for everyone, and all applicants are held to these same standards. If an individual—regardless of their title—works in an organization which does not adhere fully to the IOA SOPs and COEs, they are not eligible for certification.

    Therefore, you are not at the “mercy of the interviewer” but at the mercy of the same requirements expected of anyone applying for this designation.

    If you felt strongly that the decision had been made in error, I wish you would have appealed it within the 30 day window.

    In addition, you could have used this process as leverage to explain to your employer how they could change your role to meet the SOPs and to therefore make you eligible for certification.

    To answer your final question, the reason the exam portion comes before the remaining steps (including the interview) is because several individuals indicated that they wanted to be able to take (and ideally) pass the exam as a way to be more qualified when applying for available organizational ombudsman positions.

    I am sorry that your organization did not refund your exam fee, but that has nothing to do with our program.

    Jennifer Moumneh
    Director, Board of Certification for Certified Organizational Ombudsman Practitioners

  3. Interesting situation.

    Does the COOP process have a built in complaint/conflict component?
    Like say...an ombuds?

    Or is the only way for someone like anonymous to air their problem and seek redress in a forum like this blog?

    As a designer, implementer, evaluator, and champion of ombuds programs, (who only executes projects via contracts that specify the program I am working on and the activities I engage in must uphold the SOPCOE) I am not allowed to take the exam.

    I do hope the COOP will consider developing a process of those who design, build, and evaluate programs. The work and skills involved in creating/implementing or assessing a program is totally different than the what is required to function as an ombuds. If we do not have to code designer / builders how will more "to-code" programs be created? The voluntary support that IOA members (COOP certified or otherwise) offer is great, but as they are volunteers, always limited.

    This seems, to me any way, an issue of professionalization, and perhaps something that will be addressed in the session lead by Chuck Howard in Denver. Hope so.

    Good luck COOP leadership, and to you as well Anonymous.
    (Happy to serve as a neutral third if that would be of use to either of you.)

    John W. Zinsser
    Co-founder and Principal
    Pacifica Human Communications, LLC.
    Adjunct Faculty
    Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
    Columbia University

  4. (Part I)

    Let me clarify that I didn’t say your program had anything to do with my employer not refunding what I paid. Wasting money is unpleasant, sure, but by far not the reason for my comments. Being denied certification unfairly and arbitrarily is what motivated me to write.

    About the criteria you mentioned, I did (and I still do) meet every one of the requirements. I checked before I applied, and I submitted all of the documents to support my application. I actually exceed the requirements by a large margin. And I passed the exam with the highest score.

    I continue to stand by my comment about being at the mercy of the interviewer; the interpretation of what I said was subjective and unfair; that was what caused the certification to be denied. At the time I applied, I had 11 years as a sole practitioner at the organization I proudly and honorably served, and 20 years as a conflict resolution professional. I had earned two graduate level degrees in conflict resolution, and I had taught a graduate level ADR course at a top university for several years, in addition to my full time job as a practitioner. Being denied certification does not change my commitment to what I do. My disappointment is about the unfairness which caused the certification to be denied.

    If I understood correctly, you stated that the organization has to adhere to the IOA’s SOPs/COEs. So, if “University X” or “Company Y” has an ombuds office or a practitioner that works as an ombuds, it is the organization that has to adhere to the SOPs/COEs? Does that mean that everyone who is certified was held to those standards, and every organization they work for (or worked for, at the time of the certification) adheres to the IOA’s SOPs/COEs?

    I held myself to those standards and followed the COEs/SOPs, with the knowledge and (informal) support from my organization, but the commitment to the COEs/SOPs was ultimately from me, as a practitioner. The organization did the best it could to support my role and my commitment to the IOA’s SOPs/COEs, but the position I held was created – as many are - by bureaucrats; as such, it had “imperfections”, but none that would compromise the quality or the integrity of my work. I honored my personal commitment and never had any problems or issues.
    (End of part I...too many characters, sorry.)

  5. (Part II)

    Where was I? Oh...yes...here:

    Since we’re talking about strictly adhering to the SOPs/COEs, was everyone ever certified completely independent, with no other position within their organization which might compromise independence? None of them has a part-time faculty appointment or has an ombuds/faculty role, or sits on any committee that could be perceived as a conflict of interest in terms of independence? And they are all independent from other organizational entities? They have access to all information and all individuals in the organization, all the way up? They all have authority to select their staff and manage their budget and operations. Otherwise, they would not be eligible for certification. Do they all fit that requirement? None have “inherited” staff they didn’t choose, and none of their staff was selected by HR or anyone else? Or, let me put it this way: none lack such authority, free from any interference at all?

    Also, according to what you said, all who were certified report to the highest possible level of the organization and operate independent of staff structures. The IOA “best practices” document informs that the ombuds should have direct access to the Board of Directors; does that mean that all who were certified have that kind of access, and none of them reports to, say, a Dean, or a Director? And those who report directly to presidents or CEOs, are they really independent? Shouldn’t every organizational ombuds be “parallel” to the organization’s staff structure, but not a part of it? Can you confirm that is the case for all who have been certified? Otherwise, even those who report directly to the highest authority but not to a board of directors are still part of the staff structure and would not qualify for certification.

    I could go through the entire SOPs/COEs documents and more questions, but I will stop here. I think I have made my point.

    I insist that with my educational and professional background and experience, and having submitted proof of everything that was required, I should have been granted certification. I continue to believe that the process was unfair and flawed, and I will continue to tell everyone who will listen about what happened.

    I know your role is to defend the practices of your organization, fair or not. Maybe your organization could benefit from having someone who would be more of an advocate for fairness. Like an ombudsperson would.

    The reason I did not appeal the decision was not that I didn’t feel strongly enough about it, but that I lost interest in becoming certified and lost faith in the process and in the people involved in it.

    1. Anonymous-
      Thanks for your comments.
      So what was your actual job title and what was the "technicality" that lead to the denial of certification? I think some readers would like to know.

  6. I prefer not to disclose the exact job title, since I wish to remain anonymous, but it included the expression "conflict resolution". The denial of certification happened because I did not report to the highest level of the organization. I explained that even though that was the case (a "design flaw"), the reporting relationship was a formality, and I had support to act independently. I still have doubts about whether they are as strict with everyone as they were with me. And I continue to think it's unfair to allow someone to go through the whole process and pass the exam (all that for nothing) and then let the interpretation of one interviewer have that much weight against the candidate, and for a very high price. It's a great way to alienate people from becoming involved with IOA.