July 30, 2014

Conflict Resolution Quarterly Spotlights Ombuds

The current issue of the periodical published by the Association for Conflict Resolution is devoted to Ombuds articles.  Conflict Resolution Quarterly is available only by subscription, but the editors have provided abstracts of the articles.

"Needs before Tools: Using Technology in Environmental Conflict Resolution" by Amanda E. Cravens 
Environmental conflict resolution practitioners have become increasingly interested in using information technology to work collaboratively across sectors. Discussions to date, however, have focused on specific tools rather than the underlying objectives that software can accomplish. Technology, like any other technique in a practitioner's repertoire, is a solution to a specific challenge identified through reflection-in-action. Explicitly defining the needs one wishes software to meet prevents using technology for technology's sake, provides criteria to choose between similar products or evaluate a tool's success, and helps identify needs for which suitable tools do not currently exist.
"Toward the Activist Ombudsman: An Introduction" by Howard Gadlin 
This introduction frames the articles in this mini-colloquy on the work of the Office of the Ombudsman at the National Institutes of Health, Center for Cooperative Resolution (OO/CCR). This office is unique in its size, experience, and approach to the work of the organizational ombudsman. Through this series of articles, we share our understandings of the potential for the role of the organizational conflict management specialists called ombudsmen and to assist other organizations and practitioners as they consider and enact similar roles within their workplaces.
"Two Perspectives on Learning the Organizational Ombudsman Role" by Linda Myers and Lisa Witzler
This article explores the challenges in learning the role of the organizational ombudsman from the perspectives of two practitioners—one an experienced workplace mediator, the other a student of conflict resolution. The discussion of the shift in thinking, as well as skills needed to transition into the various facets of organizational ombudsman work, combines concepts from ombudsman theory with insights on enhancing ombudsman practice. The authors provide observations and recommendations based on their own experiences assuming the roles of a new ombudsman, including reflective practice and partnering, coaching with employees, and expanding systemic engagements with and cultural knowledge of organizations.
"Conflict Resolution in the Workplace: What Will the Future Bring?" by David Brubaker, Cinnie Noble, Richard Fincher, Susan Kee-Young Park and Sharon Press
Collaborative processes to resolve conflict in the workplace have permeated organizations in North America over the past thirty years. Mediation and arbitration processes made the earliest inroads in organizations, joined more recently by conflict coaching and organizational ombudsry. Concurrently, law schools and other graduate schools expanded their alternative dispute resolution (ADR) offerings and conflict resolution programs. This article charts the trends in workplace conflict management and ADR education and proposes where the field may be heading in the coming years. The authors note growing demand for workplace mediation, coaching, and ombuds offices, and they call for broader adoption of integrated conflict management systems.
"Toward the Activist Ombudsman: Conclusion" by Howard Gadlin
This conclusion to the mini-colloquy examines the importance of both organizational culture and individual practitioners approaches in order to better convey the deeply important and personal work of the organizational ombudsman.
"Prioritizing Practice in Ombudsman and ADR Programs" by David E. Michael
This article examines ways in which the Office of the Ombudsman/Center for Cooperative Resolution (OO/CCR) at the National Institutes of Health pursues activities that comprise an orientation toward practice and supports development of an “activist” ombudsman orientation. The article opens by describing challenges that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organizations face, contrasts them with the experience of OO/CCR, details elements of a practice orientation as experienced at OO/CCR, and suggests ways in which ADR and ombudsman organizations may address their own challenges and pursue a practice orientation.
"Identity and Culture in Ombudsman Practice" by Linda M. Brothers
Most of us in the fields of conflict resolution recognize that we live in an increasingly diverse world, one wherein we seek to understand and resolve conflicts between individuals and groups possessing complex and disparate identities. This article explores the salience of identity and culture within ombuds practice, also referencing recent social science research to examine how implicit bias affects both our understanding of a situation and our conflict resolution strategies. Finally, the article explores possible strategies for isolating and decreasing unconscious ombudsman bias.
"The Reflective Observer Model" by J. Kathleen Moore
The reflective observer (RO) model is a unique process that incorporates live observation by a trained observer of an ombudsman during a mediation session, followed by an in-depth debriefing between the ombudsman and the RO. The clinical goal is to explore cognitive schema used by the ombudsman in decision making during critical moments of the mediation and to describe the underrecognized rationale behind seemingly intuitive expertise. During the debriefing, the exploration is guided by a protocol specifically designed to elicit personal associations, as well as tactical decisions of the ombudsman not frequently addressed in ombudsman practice or training. While research on reflective practice is common among mediators (Bronson 2000), less research has focused on the impact of reflective practice on the work of ombudsmen. The RO model shows promise as a personal and professional developmental tool for ombudsmen and is a novel approach for both deeper learning as well as developing higher-order clinical interviewing skills.
"Stretching the Coaching Model" by Samantha Levine-Finley
This article provides an orientation to a general coaching model employed within the NIH Office of the Ombudsman, Center for Cooperative Resolution (OO/CCR), and explains how it fits within the framework of our interpretation of the ombudsman role and compares to other approaches in the coaching field. The article describes steps that ombudsmen may employ as the coaching relationship becomes more established and as trust develops between the ombudsman and visitor. It also describes indicators of potential problems in coaching and how an ombudsman might respond to them.
(Courtesy of Hannah Pilla, Editorial Assistant, Conflict Resolution Quarterly.)

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