Creating a Welcoming Organizational Environment

For successful inclusion, it is crucial that the culture of an organization is welcoming and able to effectively integrate diverse experiences and insights. This means valuing unique perspectives, including insights informed by race, gender, cultural, socioeconomic background, education, and personal experience with suicide. An organizational culture where life experiences are openly discussed and valued promotes engagement. A welcoming environment is one that allows professional, educational, and personal experience to be integrated into internal communications and community programming. To help create this type of environment, consider providing training to your organization’s staff on cultural competence in working with people with lived experience.


Creating a welcoming environment begins with leadership

Formal and informal leaders are key to creating a welcoming organizational environment that supports inclusion and whole staff wellness.1 Leaders set the climate and culture through their actions, words, and expectations in engaging individuals with lived experience.

Actions such as ensuring all employees have access to tangible supports, writing job descriptions that emphasize the value of lived experience, holding staff accountable for any inadvertent or subtle discriminatory acts or language, and casual conversations (e.g., watercooler chat) with those with lived experience, set the tone, direction, and message that lived experience is important and valued in all employees.

To model inclusivity and openness to lived experience, leaders can:

  • Use inclusive language
  • Ask directly about potential impact of proposed marketing materials, policies, procedures, etc., on individuals with lived experience
  • Share their own personal lived experience perspective (as appropriate and when ready)

Leaders should also set the expectation and hold staff accountable for ensuring that individuals with lived experience are:

  • Included in planning activities
  • Actively recruited for appropriate roles and positions
  • Involved in:
    • Development and review of marketing or messaging campaigns
    • Planning suicide prevention interventions or projects
    • Ongoing review of policies and procedures related to suicide prevention, intervention, treatment, aftercare, and support

Such modeling, expectation setting, and accountability creates an organizational culture of integrated, active engagement with people who have lived experience. For additional resources and support in growing an inclusive, welcoming culture, and incorporating lived experience, see the Tools section of this toolkit.




  1. Klein, K. J., & Sorra, J. S. (1996). The challenge of innovation implementation. Academy of Management Review, 21(4), 1055-1080.​