March 11, 2021

IOA Postpones Board Election to Conduct Independent Review of Diversity and Equity Concerns

The International Ombudsman Association's Task Force on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging has raised concerns about the process for selecting board members. The implicit question is: Why is there not more diversity among IOA's Board of Directors? In response, IOA will postpone its election and annual meeting (which has traditionally occurred during the annual conference) to allow for an independent review of the past six years of board elections. 

Here is the full announcement:

IOA Board Update
Creating & Sustaining a Culture of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
We write today with important information regarding our efforts at IOA to create and sustain a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
As you may know, the IOA Board of Directors recently created the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Task Force, which has become a valuable resource for IOA and an immediate catalyst for change.
The Task Force maintains an open line of communication with the Board and recently advised us of several issues related to IOA’s Bylaws dealing with the selection and approval process for IOA Board nominations. Among the Task Force’s concerns were:
1. The lack of clarity and specification as to what constitutes applicable ombuds experience and IOA-compliant practice under the Bylaws, specifically Article IV(B)-(F)

2. Whether current eligibility requirements for service on the Board have been inequitably interpreted or applied

3. Whether the current process has caused any racially disparate impact among Board members.
IOA's Board of Directors shares the DEIB Task Force’s concerns and is working to ensure current IOA Bylaws and practices in no way contribute to leadership gatekeeping that advantages those with existing power and access. Even before hearing about this issue from the Task Force, the Board had engaged with the Nominating & Governance Committee to review and suggest changes in the Bylaws as part of the 2021–2024 Strategic Direction.
To that end, the IOA Board has taken immediate action that builds on its current review of IOA Bylaws. These actions include:
1. The Launch of an Independent Review
The Board has authorized the hiring of outside counsel to conduct a thorough review of IOA Board elections, going back six years. This review will examine information submitted by all candidates nominated for a Board position, including those ultimately approved for or denied a nomination. It is important to stress that this review is not intended to reverse or disqualify past elections, remove current Board members, or challenge past actions of the Board or IOA members. With the IOA Bylaws already under examination, this review is another way to develop an understanding of the need for any further improvements. 
2. Board Election Postponement
The Board has put on hold the 2021–2024 Director election process with the understanding that a new process may commence following the independent review, as well as after consideration of the current Bylaws and potential changes that address Director eligibility criteria. 
3. Annual Business Meeting Postponement
The Board has also voted to postpone the 2021 Annual Business Meeting, previously scheduled for 27 April (not to be confused with IOA's 16th Annual Conference), to a date no later than the end of September 2021. This will allow time for the independent review’s findings and any recommendations to be finalized, reviewed, and understood by the Board and shared with the DEIB Task Force and members as appropriate. This time will also be used by the Nominating & Governance Committee to develop and present potential Bylaws changes to the Board for review and approval, and then distribution to members for final approval at a Special Meeting later this spring (date to be determined). If required, this process may also result in a new nomination and election process for the open 2021–2024 IOA Director positions. In order to accomplish these tasks in a reasonable timeframe, current Directors and IOA Officers will remain in office until the date of the 2021 Annual Business Meeting.
The IOA Board remains committed to transparency during this process, and we will share additional information as we move forward. As always, we welcome your feedback.
In the meantime, we are confident that these actions will shed light on the need for any future changes and will ultimately make our association stronger, our processes more transparent, and advance our work toward a more diverse and inclusive organization.

The IOA Board of Directors 

Related posts: IOA Board Appoints New Director to Open Seat; IOA Voting for 2020 Board to be Strictly Pro Forma; IOA Calls for Fairness and Justice; IOA Seeks Nominations for 2021 Board of Directors; IOA Board Shares Three-Year Strategic Plan; 2020 Year in Review: Courage and Crises; Election for 2021 IOA Board: 5 Nominees for 6 Seats.

1 comment:

  1. I really appreciated this decision by the board and how they communicated it, so if you're a board member reading this, thank you for being willing to pause and take these steps.