The long goodbye

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.