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100 Days in Post – Louise Simpson, Executive Director

After taking over the role of Executive Director of the Institute at the start of July 2022, Louise Simpson looks back on her first 100 days in post…

My first 100 days in post has flown by, but I have been enormously encouraged by the welcome and support the sector has shown me.

There is a growing recognition that the forestry and arboriculture sector is increasingly diverse. It is hard to pin down one definition for professionals working with trees and woodlands, and trying to do so can often be counter-productive (and divisive).

The Institute is determined to provide a professional home for all those that work with trees and woodlands, however they may describe themselves, but at the same time also recognise that many may be paying membership fees to more than one professional body.

It is important to acknowledge this. Working with other professional bodies is critical to us, and I have met with a wide range of other membership organisations to discuss how we might work together in a way that recognises we share members but that also respects each of our unique offerings. Every single one of these organisations have been enthusiastic about collaboration.

Next month, members of the Institute and the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) will meet to discuss common areas of interest. Sally Haynes, the Chief Executive of CIEEM, and I are keen to explore how we might assist these members so that ecologists working with trees get access to high-quality CPD on trees and our foresters with an ecological leaning get access to good quality ecology CPD. This might be controversial, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t really important which membership body they have joined, but rather that if they are going to be working with trees that they have access to the right type of CPD that will ensure that they can do a professional job.

We recently hosted our first Nursery Special Interest Group (SIG) to talk with our members about how we might continue to support professionals in the nursery sector – what CPD do they need and what CPD could they offer to help other members understand the challenges and innovations in the nursery sector. If this proves successful, we are aiming to create more SIGs to ensure we are addressing all of our members interests.

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of is the support that industry leaders have given to the Trees Call to Action Fund ‘Emerging Leaders Programme’. This fellowship, developed by the Institute and Clore Social Leadership, will create a network of empowered future leaders with the skills to operate in these challenging times. It will give them the tools and resources to understand how the different part of the sectors works and encouraging them to generously collaborate to ensure the delivery of our part in the climate and biodiversity crisis. More than twenty Chief Executives and Directors are taking part in the interview panels to choose the successful candidates, and both the Welsh Government and Scottish Forestry agreed to fund additional places to ensure this network represents all parts of UK forestry. I don’t think I could be more heartened by the coming together of the sector and their support for each other.

I couldn’t talk about my first 100 days without acknowledging the tremendous support that I have received from my staff and our trustees. We have been short-staffed whilst we restructure and yet we continue to deliver an ambitious agenda with a smile on our face. We’ve recently welcomed a new Senior Technical Officer and a Project Coordinator for the Trees Call to Action Fund – by December we will be back to full capacity with a great workplan for 2023. Exciting times!

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