The Organizational Ombuds profession and individual practitioners enjoyed a good year.   The top ten stories of 2012 from the Ombuds Blog show that the profession continued to improve and expand.

[Runner Up] Among Other Things, Paula Broadwell Was an Ombuds -- Who know that one of the year's most intriguing newsmakers once worked as an Ombuds? Readers of the Ombuds Blog, that's who.

10. Offices Openings Outpace Closures -- The number of new offices far outstripped the few closures in 2012.  Ombuds programs were established at:

These were offset by a few notable closures at:

9.  Study Concludes Ombuds Aren't the Right Fit for English Universities -- After an extensive survey, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator concluded that the North American Ombuds model was not viable for English and Welsh universities.

8.   Ethics Resource Center Says Ombuds Have Role Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines -- The independent advocacy group recommended that the U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines should explicitly recognize Ombuds as an important and appropriate resource for U.S. corporations.

7.  Internal Ombuds Programs Find Favor in India -- In response to a new requirement by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, India's colleges and universities began appointing Ombuds to handle grievances from students and applicants.  Also, a growing number of large Indian corporations are beginning to use Ombuds programs to handle internal and external grievances.  Traditionally, Ombuds in India served only external constituents, so the internal focus of these new programs is significant.

6.  Penn State Scandal Presents Challenges and Opportunities -- The child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University that broke in 2011 didn't involve any Ombuds (at least as far as publicly known), but the extensive misconduct triggered discussions about the Ombuds role.  In response to the scandal, Penn State alumni and faculty argued for a more robust Ombuds program.  (Penn State currently has an Ombuds network only for faculty issues.)  IOA also offered a specialized training program that addressed some of the issues Ombuds might face in a similar situation.

5.  Regional Meetings Draw More Ombuds -- The 40th annual California Caucus of College and University Ombuds conf... and the 10th Annual Summer Meeting of Academic Ombudspersons had record numbers of attendees.  The Coalition of Federal Ombuds was expecting a large turnout for its 2012 Annual Conference, but the event was postponed by Hurricane Sandy.  In addition, programs about the Ombuds field were hosted by the District of Columbia Bar Association and the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators.

4.  New Ombuds at the American University in Cairo has a Rough Start -- AUC appointed Anthropology Professor Hanan Sabea as its first Ombuds in late 2011.  A few months later, she helped resolve a strike by the university's buildings and grounds staff.  Things did not go so smoothly in the summer, when she interceded in student protests linked to the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring.  During a confrontation between administrators and students at a university gate, she was overcome by heat and had to be hospitalized.  In October, AUC opened a search for a new Ombuds.

3.  IOA Compensation Survey Showed Ombuds Earnings Stagnated -- Three years after its last survey of the profession, IOA found that most Ombuds salaries have been growing slowly.  Pay in the academic sector in 2010 increased by 0.6% to 1%, while government Ombuds saw an increase of 1.6% or less.  Corporate Ombuds were a bright spot: compensation in that sector rose 3.5%, far outpacing inflation for the year.  The IOA survey also collected a range of data about Ombuds' practices not previously quantified.

2.  Baker Hughes Creates an Ombuds Program for 24,000 Employees -- In September, the Fortune 200, oilfield services company headquartered in North Houston, Texas opened an IOA-compliant Ombuds Office (“o3”) that will serve its employees in North America. (The progam will be extended to about 5,000 Canadian emplyoees in 2014.) It is extremely rare, unfortunately, that prominent multinational, public corporations spontaneously create robust Ombuds programs.  For this reason, the Baker Hughes program is significant and commendable.

1.  ACCUO Adopts Standards of Practice -- In June, the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons finall....  Although the Standards are intended to serve as a guide for Canadian post-secondary Ombuds offices, they are an important reference for all Organizational Ombuds.  Indeed, the ACCUO Standards are one of only two statements of principles published by professional Ombuds association.  (IOA's being the other.)  It is also significant that ACCUO's Standards are remarkably different than IOA's.  ACCUO's Standards comprise four tenets: Independence; Impartiality; Confidentiality; and Accessibility. The Standards also identify five functions and responsibilities of Organizational Ombuds: Information and Advice; Intervention (conflict resolution and investigation); Recommendations; Reporting; and Integrity of Service. The announcement from ACCUO was inexplicably muted, yet this new perspective on the duties and role of Ombuds deserves much more attention and discussion.

The Ombuds Blog is also surveying its readers for their take on the top stories of 2012.  Thanks for any feedback.

Related Ombuds Blog posts: The Ombuds Decade in Review; The Ombuds Year in Review: 2010The Ombuds Year in Review: 2011 (Part I); The Ombuds Year in Review: 2011 (Part II)The Ombuds Year in Review: 2011 (Part III).

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