Getting the best out of corporate partnerships - and winning awards on the way
Chief Executive of Seamab, Joanna McCreadie, gives us her rundown of their partnership with StudioLR - how mutual respect and open communication led to a surprise win at the Scottish Fundraising Awards.
Around this time last year at Seamab we were getting ready for the IoF annual conference and awards dinner. We found out shortly before the event we had been shortlisted for the Best Partnership Relationship for our work with the outstanding design agency, StudioLR on our new branding.
There’s little doubt that our partnership with StudioLR has been a unique experience. At the very beginning, we hoped they would be able to design a new logo for the charity. Even though we knew we needed to do much more than just come up with a new logo, we didn’t know at that stage how much we really needed to do. At that first meeting Lucy and Andy asked us to tell them about the work we do at Seamab. It’s not difficult to talk about what we do, and why it matters. But it emerged in that discussion that we were struggling with how we talked and described what we do with people and organisations outside the charity.
Andy and Lucy (for those who don’t know them) are uniquely talented designers and communicators. They understand how to communicate visually and in words. In Seamab, they saw a charity and a cause that was eminently worthwhile but that wasn’t yet able to fully articulate and communicate their vital work with children.
Our partnership brought together complementary knowledge and skills. At Seamab, we had expertise in caring for traumatised children; StudioLR had the expertise in communicating with the external world about our work. We didn’t realise at the beginning of the relationship that it would be so inspiring for both of us, and we never thought that it would result in winning awards.
We didn’t start our partnership with StudioLR with a plan of achieving what we have with our branding. We started the partnership because we both wanted to make a difference for the children at Seamab. We were brought together by a shared interest and commitment and our relationship was – and still is – based on shared openness and respect. This could be felt in the brief for the branding, the way we worked together and in the final result – a creative, unique, quirky and child-centred brand.
This is a brand that I now take with me wherever I go. I use the Sea Changers – the characters that articulate our work – in conversations and presentations. I tell stories about fictional children that live at Seamab and find solace and happiness with the Sea Changers. People tell me that they understand not just what we’re trying to do at Seamab, but they now know more about the lives of children growing up in residential care.
Preparing for the conference and awards dinner last year, our anticipation was about learning from others at the conference and enjoying the dinner. We had no expectation of winning in our category. So when we were announced as the winners in our category we were wholly unprepared for getting up on stage and saying anything. This partially explains my rather garbled words of acceptance – but the other part of the explanation is that we were absolutely, and genuinely taken aback by our win.
For us, winning the Partnership Award was and is very special. It recognises how unique our work together really is and celebrates the impact that can be achieved in charities when we truly commit to working collaboratively. And are we still a Best Partnership? Absolutely yes.
Joanna McCreadie is the Chief Executive of Seamab, a unique charitable organisation that provides care and education for vulnerable children. She leads a multi-disciplinary team, working to deliver services which place children at the heart of everything they do. Working as a practitioner, inspector and senior manager, Joanna has specialised in work with children and young people who have experienced significant trauma. Joanna is also Clore Social Leadership Fellow. You can find Joanna on Twitter - @JoannaSeamab