October 20, 2009

"Multipartiality" a Key Principle for Oberlin Ombuds

In an updated website, the Oberlin College Ombuds Office states it follows the principles of confidentiality, independence, and “multipartiality” in all its dealings. Multipartiality thus replaces the IOA principles of neutrality and independence adopted by Organizational Ombuds. The Oberlin website explains:
The ombudsperson does not act as an advocate for any side in a dispute, but strives to consider and fairly present all sides of a situation. The goal of multipartiality is to give all participants the means and opportunity to tell their stories. (Oberlin Ombuds Principles.)

The decision to be multipartial is consistent with IOA standards, but implies a more proactive role for an Ombuds than neutrality and independence. For some, multipartiality may be a more apt description for the Ombuds role. What do you think?


  1. Howard Gadlin has argued that multi-partiality is more important for ADR systems than detached neutrality. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=982364.

    1. Rifkin and Cobb wrote on multi-partiality a decade and half before Gadlin, in 1991!

  2. Thank you for this helpful reference, Tom… In the approach I teach for facilitating complex multi-stakeholder work, we describe this as "taking all sides." I find it to be a highly effective perspective. www.diapraxis.com