What is an ombuds or ombudsperson or ombudsman?

Last time I wrote about an online article from the UK describing a mediator making awards and compelling “settlements” — concepts foreign to mediation in the U.S.  That same article referred to a financial “ombudsman”, and the term seemed to be used interchangeably with “mediator”.

In this country, the concept of an ombuds (the term that is currently used most often) is not the same as that of a mediator. An ombuds is a person who part of a particular large organization and plays a role of informal complaint and dispute manager. Usually the organization is a corporation or government agency of some kind, and the ombuds works outside a rigid chain of command.

Work as a mediator could be a big part of an ombuds work, but the role could also include serving as a sympathetic ear, a referral source, and a possibly an agent for change in the organization.

Posted in ADR: Dispute Resolution Processes, Monday, May 30th, 2011