Many of the most important events in the Ombuds field in 2021 were relatively quiet, but will gain significance in time. Then there was obviously important work of the IOA leadership, which was immediately notable and which will also set the stage for continued growth in the profession.
Setting the Stage for Positive Change
A Record Number of Job Postings Indicate Growth in Profession
In 2021, there were over 250 job openings for Ombuds, the most in any year (at least the 15 years of this blog) and nearly four times the number of jobs posted in 2020. Many of these postings from organizations that have not had an Ombuds before. Notable numbers of jobs were posted by public school districts, international development banks, academic medical centers, and professional associations. These job postings preview significant growth in the Ombuds profession.
Overdue Shift to Gender-Free Label will Differentiate Ombuds
In January, the IOA Board of Directors announced that "-man" would be dropped from the association's name. Then in November, a majority of IOA members approved change. The move had a couple of benefits: 1. It brought IOA into line with other professional associations for Organizational Ombuds (e.g.: ACCUO, Cal Caucus, and ENOHE); and 2. Further reinforces the difference between "Organizational Ombuds" and "Classical Ombudsmen."
Chuck's Howard Parting Gift: A New Book
As Chuck Howard's tenure as IOA's first Executive Director drew to a close, the American Bar Association began accepting pre-orders for his second book, A Practical Guide to Organizational Ombuds: How They Help People and Organizations. His first book in 2010, Organizational Ombuds. That book, The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations-A Legal Guide, became a critical and reliable resource for practitioners and attorneys. It seems certain that the same reception awaits his sophomore effort and his wisdom will continue to guide Ombuds long after his retirement.
IOA Board Works an Extended Term to Resolve Significant Issues
By March 2021, IOA's Board of Directors had already managed the association through the daunting first year of the Covid pandemic. Their successful stewardship was already an achievement, but a report by the Task Force on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging raised concerns about the process for selecting board members. So instead of passing the baton to newly-elected directors, the Board postponed the election and annual meeting for an independent review of the election process. In July, the board proposed a broad collection of governance changes that included updates to the election. A few vocal members derailed the Special Meeting. The board retreated and reconsidered, but did not surrender. After providing additional forums for dialog and parsing the issues on the ballot, the board's proposals were all approved by a large majority of the members. A new slate of directors will now be elected in time to relieve the current board after an unprecedented 24-month term. Never before has the board worked so hard and accomplished so much. Its efforts will benefit IOA and the profession for years to come.