Toward the Activist Ombudsman: Conclusion

Date01 July 2014
Published date01 July 2014
C R Q, vol. 31, no. 4, Summer 2014 477
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.21105
Toward the Activist Ombudsman: Conclusion
Howard Gadlin
is conclusion to the mini-colloquy examines the importance of both
organizational culture and individual practitioners approaches in
order to better convey the deeply important and personal work of the
organizational ombudsman.
Much of the literature on organizational confl ict resolution programs
gives the impression that mediators and ombudsmen are a type of
clinician, interpreting principles of confl ict resolution and rationally apply-
ing specialized techniques in order to solve complex problems and fi x bro-
ken organizations (Forester 1999; Gadlin et al. 2000; Lipsky, Seeber, and
Fincher 2003; Rowe 2010; Ziegenfuss 1988). While there is some truth to
this, it is only part of the picture. It must be remembered that much confl ict
resolution work is also deeply personal and that the ombudsman’s personal
style transmits these principles and shapes these techniques. Although our
work is guided by the standards of practice and ethical principles of the
ombudsman profession and much of our work is informed by studies of
and theories about confl ict resolution, we have written these pages in the
rst person with the hope of conveying the subjective and idiosyncratic
ways we enact our role. If readers were to watch each of us working a case,
they would notice both how similar and how diff erent we are.
While our personal stamps are on all of our work and each of us is
infl uenced by our colleagues, in the most important ways our role is struc-
tured by the organization within which we work. Indeed, we believe that to
be successful, ombudsman programs must strive to tailor themselves and
be responsive to the mission and culture of the organizations in which they
function. As our offi ce has evolved over the years, we fi nd ourselves increas-
ingly intertwined with NIH, working not just with confl icts and problems
but with larger organizational issues pertaining to policies, procedures,

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