Perhaps it is not ironic that in these contentious times there is so much activity and innovation in the field of dispute resolution. The world of ombuds programs has been especially active and the ABA Dispute Resolution Section Ombuds Committee has provided a meeting ground for communication and action among all types of ombuds. The fall issue of Dispute Resolution Magazine included three excellent articles, one locating the ombuds in the context of the broader dispute resolution world and two describing exemplary programs, one in the corporate world (McKinsey and Company), and one in a federal agency (The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). The four featured articles report on some recent developments in and thoughts about ombuds programs.
Readers will find especially useful Wendy Kamenshine’s overview and guide to reading the recently released report and recommendation from the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) on ombuds in the federal government titled A Reappraisal – The nature and Value of Ombudsmen in the Federal Agencies. Her article includes a summary of the recommendations and a description of the many different types of ombuds and their defining characteristics. Haavi Morreim’s article discusses the use of organizational ombuds in healthcare institutions – a relatively recent development that is poised for significant growth. Elizabeth Schwartz Hill gives us a window into outreach efforts in the ombuds world, also a recent development and another sign that the ombuds field is maturing. Finally, Paul Sotoudeh shares his thoughts on developing “smart” intake and case delegation processes that insures input form senior personnel in an ombuds program.