Conference Summary 2014
Why We Do What We Do: Influences on Ombuds Practices
National Institutes of Health
The goal of this session was twofold: to share the experiences of exploring influences in ombudsman practice through my doctoral research and to lead the group through an exploration of their own influences on ombudsman practice. The session was grounded in my doctoral research and the discussion questions were based upon research questions posed to organizational ombudsmen within the US academic sector during my research. Participants explored three different levels of influence: the self/individual experiences, the leadership/the culture of the organizations within which we work, and our standards of practice and code of ethics. These three levels are the three realms of influence that informed my grounded theory: there are three major influences on an organizational ombudsman’s practice in US academia: self, organization and standards of practice. After a quick discussion about three major aspects of organizational ombuds work (casework, work with leadership, and systemic-level work), we explored the three influences with the following questions:
Individual: What in your personal and professional background influences your ombuds practice? Some examples might be your personal philosophies or religious preferences. Yesterday you identified these; now, how do they influence how you work with visitors, leadership and the system?
Organization: What influences does your organization have on your ombuds practice? Some examples might include Title IX/Clery designations, your reporting relationship, even personalities of/relationships with leadership. How do they influence how you work with visitors, leadership and the system?
Standards of Practices: How do your standards of practice or code of ethics that you adhere to influence your practice? Do you have SOPs or COEs that you adhere to? How do they influence how you work with visitors, leadership and the system?
Several themes throughout the session emerged: many reported life experiences having a major impact on their practice; many shared experiences with injustice that informed their practice; and there were notable differences in how OO’s work with their leadership (i.e., the frequency of meetings).
Participants were provided the following questions from my research for use in further self-reflection:
· How did you learn the ombudsman role?
· How would you describe your practice as an ombudsman?
· Has your practice changed since you began practicing?
· Knowing that each interaction with a visitor is unique, please describe a typical initial interaction with a visitor.
· How long do you typically meet with a visitor?
· How long do you generally work with a visitor, on average (days, weeks, months, years)?
· How do you let a visitor know about your role (opening statement)?
· How do you discuss options?
· Do you ever invite the visitor to think about other perspectives might be, if so how and when?
· How do you respond to a visitor’s concern for retaliation?
· How do you respond to an emotional visitor?
· How do you respond when a visitor asks for your recommendation for what to do?
· Please describe how you discuss actions with a visitor.
· Do you mediate or facilitate conversations between visitors?
· What happens when you have information that the visitor doesn’t that might impact how the visitor makes an informed decision about what steps to take?
· Do you edit/review correspondence?
· How do you incorporate the 4 SOPs in your practice, particularly in discussing options and actions you might take?
· Do you engage with groups as well as individuals? (if so, how would you define a group?)
· Have you ever declined to work with an individual or ended working with an individual or group? Please describe.
· Do you report systemic issues?
· If so, to whom and how?
· How do you work with leadership?
· What influences your practice?
· What influence does your organization have on your practice?