My very good friend Sarah Shaw left IPPF today after serving for over 12 years.
She held a variety of posts – we first met while she was busy, running the library and looking after the photo collection. As the in-house designer at IPPF, the photography collection of over 40,000 images was an enormously important resource – we needed them to help us communicate the value of the Federation’s work in a subtle but powerful way. While many in the organisation did not value communications, Sarah had this brilliant ability to understand multiple perspectives and appreciated the value of photography more than most. She often was responsible for accompanying photographers on field trips and made a concerted effort to distract each subject in conversation so that the photographer could move around unnoticed.
They always returned with a treasure trove of dazzling reportage-style images: realistic and natural. The success of those trips was, at least in part, down to Sarah’s natural talents with other people.
By the end of her time at IPPF, Sarah was spearheading some really interesting advocacy work with the organisation’s local affiliates and she championed a new approach for increasing access. She’s due to start working at Marie Stopes in a month.
It was a real pleasure to be present at her leaving party to help her celebrate her many years at HQ. And meeting up with all my old colleagues brought back some great memories of working there myself. I have so many fond memories and made some lifelong friends there.
The party was also a reaffirmation for me personally that I did the right thing in leaving when I did. It’s been nearly two years since I departed from “the mothership” and I have found it an enormously challenging and difficult experience at times. But founding and building up Folk Labs has taught me so much. I’ve never really had enough time to look back. And the opportunities presenting themselves to me (while less huge in their scale) are, in their own way, mountainous.
I’ve had so many experiences and opportunities that I would never have been offered at IPPF. And that’s not to say that I wasn’t offered plenty of opportunities at Central Office.
I miss the team I worked with enormously and I regret not having more time to head down to London Bridge to keep in touch with them.
Leaving an organisation like that is very hard. It was especially hard for me: I think I’m the sort of person who enjoys becoming part of a team and growing within it. But, sometimes, when you’ve climbed as high as you can within one organisation, the only way to progress is to “promote yourself” externally, and saying goodbye to that organisation and saying hello to the next.