Why an Ombudsman
Why an ombudsman? An ombudsman is usually a government official, who is appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against public agencies. A neutral third party who investigates, reports on and helps settle complaints. It is a Swedish concept dating back to 1809 or earlier.
Being an ombudsman is usually an inside job. But I realized that ombudsman services could exist beyond specific organizations and, instead, have a digital life. The advantages of an online platform include neutrality, independence, citywide access, community feedback, and education.
City Ombudsman is the first citywide digital ombudsman platform, in my research. When I realized the old Swedish concept could join us in the current century, I was beyond fortunate that People’s Liberty agreed and offered me a project grant for the concept. People’s Liberty provided valuable support in launching the project. We spent a half day debating whether to use “ombuds,” “ombudsman” or another word altogether. Ultimately, we decided the word was key to my approach and vision for the process. Ombudsman stayed.
I’m working on the inaugural issues to be featured on the blog. Reading the outcomes of issues on this site will deliver different experiences. Investigations may result in an informational post. Some posts may be similar to reading the old Encyclopedia Brown stories, with a twist ending that fills a gap or neatly solves a problem. Sometimes there will be two sides fairly presented, without a definite resolution, for my dear readers to further debate in the comments. The site and content will morph and grow depending on what is useful and possible.
The picture at the top of the post is from a trip to Findlay Market with Cincy Stories to ask people if they knew what an Ombudsman was. Turns out you’re on top of it, Cincinnati! Many people were definitely in the ballpark. We were right to have faith in your ability to handle the word. After all, many readers of this blog learned to spell Cincinnati at a young age.