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A web site to be launched today will provide informal, one-to-one mentoring for people and families living with health and medical issues.

http://www.horsesmouth.co.uk, the world’s first ‘pro-social’ networking site, will go live on January 16 and is purpose-built for online mentoring on a wide range of topics. Open and free to the public, it allows users to anonymously share experiences and advice on a safe and moderated platform.

With millions of people already using online forums such as Facebook and MySpace to exchange music, pictures and gossip, horsesmouth encourages users to share more meaningful knowledge in a purposeful way. An online survey conducted by tickbox.net in February 2007 revealed that while most people would like to give up some of their time each week to help others, many do not know how to or are too busy to sign up to formal volunteering charities. horsesmouth allows users to volunteer by sharing their life experiences with others from the comfort of their own homes.

One of the main topics covered by the site is health and wellbeing. Anybody coping with a condition, or who knows somebody who is, need only type a few words into the site’s search engine to be presented with a list of other users who have been through the same experience and are willing to share it. Whether users are seeking advice on cancer, arthritis, an eating disorder or depression, users will be able to find somebody to communicate with on horsesmouth.

Although most of the mentors on the site will come through normal web traffic, horsesmouth will also host partner organisations on the site. For partners, this is a great opportunity to extend the reach of existing mentoring and advice services, create new links between members or fulfill corporate social responsibility or volunteering commitments. horsesmouth will profile the partner and link to the partners’ own online resources and information. For horsesmouth members, badged mentors are an excellent source of specific personal expertise from individuals associated with known and trusted organisations.

Charter launch partners on the site are:

• Edge
• everywoman
• Make Your Mark
• Media Trust
• Mentoring and Befriending Foundation (MBF)
• National Advertising Benevolence Society (NABS)
• National Union of Students (NUS)
• TimeBank
• Tomorrow’s Company
• Youthnet
• Women’s Aid

Further partners are actively being sought.

Thousands of people have already volunteered as mentors on the beta (test) site. One, a 59-year-old male called Strategist, writes on his profile: “I have been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 52 years. I have refused to allow it to constrain my achievements - but recognise that it has been, and is, a condition which is a source of uncertainty and stress for those closest to me, and without whose support I could not have done so much.” Laura132, a 19-year-old female who has a younger brother with severe autism, offers to mentor other users with family members suffering from similar conditions.

Another mentor, a female aged 38, calls herself ‘Ladypepa’. Her profile reads: “I am a qualified doctor, and have experienced a variety of things in the last few years including bereavement and cancer. I love my job and am always keen to learn new things.”

In contrast to many other Web 2.0 sites, horsesmouth users have to leave their looks behind: profiles do not contain photographs or real names, but make use of proprietary technology that allows users to embed their user names into a range of images to create personal branding. Tools have been created to rate and reward mentors, and to report and block inappropriate behaviour.

Time and response management features allow mentors to manage the number of messages they receive and the amount of time they spend on the site. ‘Pearls of wisdom’ and conversations
can be published by mutual agreement and become part of the site’s searchable content, which it calls the ‘wisdom pool’.

Content is professionally moderated and managed by horsesmouth staff and all profiles are approved before posting, as are weblinks. In order to register in the first place a secure code is sent to the user’s mobile, which is a deterrent to people who want to use multiple identities or who have previously been blocked.

horsesmouth is the brainchild of advertising entrepreneur and prominent media industry figure MT (Mary Teresa) Rainey, who co-founded the top five advertising agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. She is a founding trustee of TimeBank, a Trustee of Demos, a non-executive director of WH Smith Plc and a Visiting Professor at Glasgow University. She is also a member of the Skills Commission.

“I really believe that the knowledge and experience people carry around with them is a huge untapped resource,” says Rainey. “If eBay is about the stuff you’ve got locked up in the attic, then horsesmouth is about the stuff you’ve got locked up in your head and heart.”

“I’ve always believed in the power of mentoring but it’s been so hard to scale. Now with the social web we can do that. horsesmouth is about making that experience safe, easy and enjoyable.”

The horsesmouth community is growing swiftly and the site has been named as one of the top 25 ‘Web 2.0’ start-ups in the UK last year by The Register. The site will be run as a social enterprise, with all profits generated being driven back into the business. The site is funded by the Edge Foundation and v, the charity launched to champion youth volunteering in England.

The horsesmouth web platform was developed by Locayta with design and user interface by Splendid. Partnership design and marketing is handled by Public Zone and Chief Technical Consultant is Ben Way of Rainmakers.

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For further information please contact:
Narda Shirley
Gong Communications
narda@gongcommunications.com
+44 (0)20 7935 4800
+44 (0)7770 888318


This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Gong Communications in the following categories: Health, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.