Holiday Showcase Welcoming Environment®

Association Forum created a Welcoming Environment® at Holiday Showcase 2019, and looks ahead to more diversity and inclusion in the coming year.

By Kim Kelly, CAE

FRM 005 In The Know Welcoming Environment

“For me, Welcoming Environment® means you can be where you are without fear of meeting bias; you are evaluated on what you can control—like effort and mindset—and not what makes you, you.”

This is how Tyler Eble, vice president at Association Development Solutions, began the Welcoming Environment® Roundtable session at Holiday Showcase 2019. The roundtable session was just one of many Welcoming Environment® initiatives at this year’s event. From a special registration area for first-time attendees, to a ribbon wall that included pronouns and self-expressive adjectives, the event put inclusion at the forefront.

Members listen to speakers and participate in discussions at last year’s Holiday Showcase in December.


Back at the roundtable session, professionals from various associations discussed topics relating to leadership and communication, member and attendee engagement, and psychological safety. Several attendees noted that their association leadership and boards have created committees to address diversity and inclusion, but that the work has been stagnant. It seems that most associations want to create a Welcoming Environment®, but few know where to start.

If your organization is struggling to make formal strides toward inclusion, look at Association Forum’s Welcoming Environment® Resource Kit. The kit includes definitions of a Welcoming Environment®, best practices and real examples of inclusive work environments in the association profession.

“We recently introduced new policies on racism and immigration to help advance [equity] efforts.”

–Nicole Blankenship, MBA, CAE, Director of Chapter and District Relations, American Academy of Pediatrics

Nicole Blankenship, MBA, CAE, is the director of chapter and district relations for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). She attended the Welcoming Environment® Roundtable at Holiday Showcase looking for ideas to strengthen the work that the AAP is doing in this area.

The AAP Board of Directors formed the Board Committee on Equity in October 2019. This committee is charged with overseeing the implementation of recommendations from the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and the Bias and Discrimination Task Force. “The AAP feels it is important to look at the root causes of health disparities, including educational inequities, poverty, adverse childhood experiences, food insecurity, racism, lack of access to quality health care, social determinants of health and environmental threats,” Blankenship says in an email.

She also notes that the AAP plans to address equity in education, policy, advocacy, research and clinical practice support, and will implement recommendations at every level of the organization. “We recently introduced new policies on racism and immigration to help advance these efforts,” Blankenship writes.

The efforts put in place by the AAP echo something discussed at Holiday Showcase—a Welcoming Environment® has to come from an organization’s board and be intentionally integrated into every aspect of the organization.

The Association Forum strives to be a leader in creating a Welcoming Environment® in order to guide its member organizations. On April 13–14, 2020, Association Forum will host the National Summit on Welcoming Environment® in Chicago. The event will bring association professionals together to explore how to take Welcoming Environment® initiatives from strategy into action.

To find out more about creating a Welcoming Environment® or to register for the National Summit on Welcoming Environment®, visit

About the Author

Kim Kelly, CAE, has more than 10 years of experience in association communications and is the owner of Kim Kelly Consulting.

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