I Can, the charity that works to develop children's communication skills, is something of a partnership junkie. It hasdeveloped 45 of them with local authorities, three with other charities and six with corporates, the latest of which is with BT. "We are an organisation that has specifically decided to look forstrategic partnerships," says Anita Kerwyn-Nye, director of communications at I Can.
The charity is looking for more than the traditional offer of cash donations and staff volunteering, however. Potential corporate suitors also have to be working in the same field. A partnership with international service company Serco has produced Targeting Talk, an online resource for primary school teachers, and the relationship with BT has been forged in the same spirit.
The telecommunications company is supporting I Can's Make Chatter Matter campaign, which was launched after research by the charity revealed that 50 per cent of children were entering school with impoverished language skills. It has developed a DVD-based training pack for pre-school teachers, nursery nurses and child minders, and is providing the funding for the improvement of I Can's communication development website. All told, the support comes to about £400,000.
Anne Bailey, campaign manager at BT's education programme, says: "BT corporate social responsibility policy has always been about going where our business is, and our business is all about communication. You cannot give someone an email connection or a telephone if they don't have the basic skills to do the human-to-human communication."
I Can is not BT's main charity partner; that privilege belongs totelephone helpline ChildLine. But the company says it has a "long-term commitment" to I Can.