December 27, 2019

The Ombuds Year in Review: 2019 (Part Two)

On balance, 2019 was a good year for the Organizational Ombuds profession. The field continued to expand and crises were either resolved or deferred. Perhaps the relative calm explains why there were fewer significant new stories than prior years.

Here are the top stories of 2019:

The Most Read Story was a Guest Post -- Generally, job posts draw the greatest number of views. In September 2019, a job announcement for an Associate Ombuds position at the NIH was the most read item. After that, a guest post by Nick Diehl reflected on issues that were discussed at the IOA conference. Diehl identified several fundamental issues that are facing the field, most especially, the need "to find a mechanism to get feedback on how we navigate challenges to the standards [of practice] within our own offices." Diehl's post provoked several thoughtful and lengthy comments, which are not typical on this blog.

León Declaration Unites European Higher Ed Ombuds -- At ENOHE's annual meeting in June 2019, representatives from five networks of Ombuds in higher education in Spain, Portugal, Canada, Latin America, and Europe agreed to increase joint cooperation. The León Declaration will unify the efforts of Conferencia Estatal de Defensores Universitarios; Rede National de Provedores do Estudante do Ensino Superior; Red Iberoamericana de Defensorías Universitarias; the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons / Association des Ombudsmans des Universités et Collèges du Canada; and and the European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education. This could mark the start of a strong international counterpart to IOA, at least for college and university Ombuds.
Seattle Becomes the First Big City to Create an Ombuds Office -- There are a few smaller municipalities with Ombuds programs and several larger cities with Classical Ombuds offices. In April, Seattle became the first large U.S. city to open an Ombuds offices for its employees. Although a novice Ombuds, Amarah Kahn, was appointed to the position, she was soon joined by Emma Phan, an experienced Ombuds from the University of Washington. Together, they are setting up an office that will serve about 10,000 employees.

Ombuds Day Becomes an International Event for All Ombuds -- In just its second year, participation surged and included Ombuds of all types and around the world. All of the major Ombuds professional associations (IOA, IOI, USOA, COFO, and ENOHE) marked the day. Official proclamations were issued by many American states and cities. And dozens of Ombuds offices sponsored educational and outreach events. It's a remarkable result for the American Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Section Ombuds Committee, a small group of focused volunteers.

IOA Names an Executive Director and Starts Advocating for Ombuds -- The Organizational Ombuds field has always been organized and governed by its own volunteers. IOA members rightly observed that leaders generally did not have the time or talents necessary for the job. In 2019, that changed. Early in the year, IOA issued the first of two press releases. Then, in August, IOA named Chuck Howard as its first Executive Director. Howard is not an Ombuds, but a long-time attorney, author, and advocate for Ombuds and their legal standing. While he is quietly assessing IOA from the inside and working on administrative matters, he also wrote his first advocacy piece for Bloomberg Law Insight. It's a new day for IOA and the Ombuds profession.
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