What is an Ombudsperson?

An Ombudsperson, traditionally referred to as ombudsman, is a public advocate who is appointed by the government to investigate and resolve complaints of rights violations and maladministration of various public offices. They are tasked with listening, understanding, coaching, mediating and problem-solving various issues. They provide impartial, independent and confidential conflict resolution services to their constituents.

Career Profile – Public University

An ombudsman who works in a public university will serve as designated neutral and impartial professionals who help mediate and resolve disputes. They provide confidential and informal assistance to constituents of their university, which includes staff, faculty and students. They neither advocate for any individual nor department, but instead advocate for fairness and impartiality. They act as a source of information and provide referrals as appropriate. They answer individual’s questions, assist in the resolution of concerns and intervene in critical situations. They assist clients in interpreting university policies and procedures by resolving issues and mediating discussions. They present both sides of the argument for each situation. They conduct informal fact-findings in order to better understand an issue from all perspectives. They function as an official sensor within the campus to identify trends that affect the entire campus.

Career Profile – Local Government

Ombudsmen who work for local governments will consult with program managers to develop cooperative strategies for satisfactory complaint resolution. With the citizen-inquirer’s permission, they consult with all parties and agencies to clarify and analyze problems. They focus discussions on results and develop a mutually satisfactory process for resolutions. Whenever possible, they provide referrals to other resources. They host meetings with members of the public and use negotiation techniques to promote positive communication among the involved individuals. They use administrative practices that maximize the local government’s ability to equitably meet the needs of all people. They may serve as an expert resource for local officials who want to formulate or modify existing policy and procedures. They periodically review the patterns of grievances and makes appropriate recommendations that will reduce or eliminate recurring grievances.

Career Profile – Youth Services

The Ombudsperson who works with a state youth service program will help young adults satisfactorily address and resolve conflicts and problematic issues regarding staff, services and management. They also interpret program rules and justify or question the application of these rules. These public advocates usually work with foster youth and youth placed in state medical care. In addition to resolving individual youth concerns, they present systemic concerns so state leaders. Their goals are to provide a safe place to express their concerns, physically meet with youth and to identify actionable recommendations. They ask strategic questions to understand the situation and history. When a complaint is received, they initiate an investigation to determine the facts and if the complaint is valid and worth pursuing. They encourage self-advocacy and interaction between youth and program management to resolve problems at their lowest levels.

Most Ombudspersons will have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as public administration or conflict resolution, and demonstrated expertise in active listening, building trust and analytically investigating concerns. Most ombudsperson will participate in relevant professional associations such as The International Ombudsman Association and the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution.

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