I am not supporting the proposed changes to IOA bylaws since I believe they will weaken IOA and degrade the Organizational Ombuds role.
IOA has long faced an inherent tension of having a culture that values inclusivity and appreciation while at the same time working to define best practices for the Organizational Ombuds field, which by definition is an exclusive exercise. IOA also faces the challenge of growing its membership while maintaining its focus on Organizational Ombuds practice.
A number of years ago IOA changed its membership categories, eliminating the distinction between those who are and who are not able to adhere to the IOA Standards of Practice. This was troubling to me since the Standards of Practice are the fundamental guide we have for our work and how we are able to distinguish Organizational Ombuds from other disciplines.
At that time, I asked a number of people who were not permitted by their respective organizations’ rules if they would practice to standards if permitted to do so. The answer was always yes, indicating a recognition that practicing to IOA standards is preferable. Yet there seems to be a reluctance for IOA to explicitly say that it is important to do so. I think this reveals an insecurity around asserting our value as a field.
When membership changes were made, there was an assurance that stringent requirements to serve on the IOA Board of Directors would be a protection for the Standards. At the time, it was predictable that at some point those requirements would be weakened, as is being proposed now.
What we are signaling by the proposed bylaws changes is that we do not fully value the Standards of Practice. How can we argue to organizations that it is important to establish offices based on our Standards if we are not holding them as important ourselves?
My understanding of the problem the Board is trying to solve is that of increasing diversity among Board representation. I am in support of this, but I do not think that changing professional experience requirements for serving on the Board is the right approach. It actually fits into a pattern of devaluing the field and has the potential to undermine IOA’s long term credibility and effectiveness.