October Observances

Crisp breezes, colorful leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and…customer service? October brings several recognized days that are central to OGIS’s role as the FOIA Ombudsman. 

First, we wish you a very happy Ombuds Day! Tomorrow, October 8, 2020, is officially recognized by the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association (ABA) as Ombuds Day. This annual observation provides an opportunity to educate the public about the role of ombuds and the wide variety of services and value that ombuds provide to institutions of all kinds. As the Federal FOIA Ombudsman, OGIS resolves FOIA disputes, identifies methods to improve compliance with the statute, and educates our stakeholders about the FOIA process. Our goals — which closely align with National Archives and Records Administration goals of “Make Access Happen” and “Connect with Customers” — include:

  • Providing quality ombudsman services to all.
  • Providing dispute resolution services to FOIA requesters and federal agencies.
  • Improving understanding of FOIA administration by expanding review of FOIA policies and procedures.
  • Identifying and communicating methods and strategies to improve FOIA compliance.
  • Increasing our impact through outreach, education, and training.

The ABA has a wide variety of Ombuds Day resources available at its website, including a number of webinars that will explore how ombuds offices serve their customers. 

Speaking of customers, since 1992, when President George H. W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 6485, the first week in October has been designated as National Customer Service Week. The week highlights the importance of customer service and its role in delivering positive, memorable customer experiences. 

Regardless of the calendar, FOIA professionals shoulder a special responsibility for customer service, particularly FOIA Public Liaisons (FPLs). The statute tasks FPLs with increasing transparency and understanding of the status of requests, and assisting in reducing delays and resolving disputes.The statute also requires agencies to provide, upon request, estimated dates of completion. 

In observance of National Customer Service Week, we salute FOIA Public Liaisons and FOIA professionals across the government who provide excellent customer service. We recognize that the challenge is greater now than before in the pandemic’s work-from-home environment. Thank you!

The entire month of October is recognized as Conflict Resolution Month. This celebration originated with the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), but the idea has spread far and wide; local, state and national jurisdictions observe the event by promoting the importance of conflict resolution. This year, ACR has designated Thursday, October 15, 2020, to be Conflict Resolution Day, and plans include:

  • Promoting awareness of mediation, and other creative, peaceful means of resolving conflict;
  • Promoting the use of conflict resolution in schools, families, businesses, communities, governments and the legal system;
  • Recognizing the significant contributions of (peaceful) conflict resolvers; and
  • Obtaining national synergy by having celebrations happen across the country and around the world.

Check out ACR’s website for more about how organizations are celebrating the importance of conflict resolution.