Head of Policy & Partnerships looks back on her time with the Institute

Following nearly four years with the Institute, Jemima Cooper is stepping down from her role as Head of Policy & Partnerships on the 29 June 2023. Here, Jemima looks back at her time with us and shares what she’s enjoyed about working in the sector.

When I first saw the job description for the role of Senior Policy and Research Officer at the Institute in 2019, I knew it was for me. I tend to go with my gut, and my gut wanted it. The diversity of the role and my fascination with a sector I knew next to nothing about just grabbed me, as well as the values of the Institute – learning, improving and connecting. Once I’d started, I realised what an exciting time for trees it was. In everything I wrote I was talking about the climate and nature crisis – what could be more important?

The last few years with the Institute I have had the best time, professionally and personally. The two qualities in the forestry and arboriculture sector, that struck me as a newbie and still strike me today, are passion and generosity. Institute members come from such a broad range of backgrounds and specialisms and everyone I spoke to gave me something different – from early conversations when I didn’t have the first clue what anyone was talking about, through to recent weeks when I actually got called a forester (high praise!). I genuinely could not count how many people in the sector have taken time out of their busy lives to help me in my work, with their extraordinary expertise and good humour.

The work I am most proud of was the skills position paper published in 2021. The need to boost education, skills and careers in the sector is perhaps the one area where everyone agrees (or at least is tied first place with squirrels). I also like to think that I helped foster positive and healthy relationships with different organisations and individuals. I love hearing different perspectives, and diversity really does breed resilience. If we are serious about making a difference, we have to work together. Luckily there is so much energy to do this – forestry and arboriculture already has an army of passionate and generous people to see it into the future.

So, three years and eight months later, I am moving on. It is a testament to how much I’ve enjoyed myself that I had almost completely forgotten about some of the things I wanted to do before – after a break for family, rest and travel, I’m hoping to move into the social sector, perhaps mental health related, following my passion. I won’t be too far away, and maybe I’ll find a way to link the two. After all, we all know that trees make us happy.

My wonderful manager and champion Louise, my amazing little team in Bristol/Wales and the rest of the Institute staff are not only lovely but do an incredible job and have been a delight to work with. To everyone else I’ve worked with over the last few years, who all helped me get to where I needed to be – whether explaining continuous cover forestry, sharing a pint or giving me insight into the minds of people who love trees so much they don’t just want to hang out in them, they want to live and work with them – thank you.

It’s been an absolute blast and I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat.

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