Identity and Culture in Ombudsman Practice

Date01 July 2014
Published date01 July 2014
C R Q, vol. 31, no. 4, Summer 2014 421
Published 2014.  is article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21095
Identity and Culture in Ombudsman Practice
Linda M. Brothers
Most of us in the fi elds of confl ict resolution recognize that we live in an
increasingly diverse world, one wherein we seek to understand and resolve
confl icts between individuals and groups possessing complex and dispa-
rate identities.  is article explores the salience of identity and culture
within ombuds practice, also referencing recent social science research to
examine how implicit bias aff ects both our understanding of a situation
and our confl ict resolution strategies. Finally, the article explores possible
strategies for isolating and decreasing unconscious ombudsman bias.
am a Black female ombudsperson, American born, raised in Brooklyn,
New York, the child of parents who left the South in search of greater
racial and economic freedom. Although ombudsman is a recognized form of
the word, I prefer to use the term ombudsperson when referring to myself, a
woman. I am also a nonpracticing attorney and fi lm buff , a wife, a mother,
a collector of antique dolls and Mexican jewelry. In representing these cap-
sule aspects of my identity, I seek to make myself both more transparent
and more concrete (see Seibt 2011).
By being more transparent regarding aspects of my own identity and
discussing the sometimes covert ways that identity presents within dis-
putes, I hope to demonstrate the salience of individual and group identity
within problem resolution, discuss the impact of diversity on ombuds-
man neutrality, and suggest a strategy for addressing issues of implicit bias
within ombudsman practice (Goldberg 2009; Wing 2009).
The Salience of Identity and Culture within Ombuds Practice
As organizational ombudsmen, my colleagues and I assist parties in the
resolution of disputes by helping surface options and analyzing choices.
At NIH we work with people from all over the world and from every

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