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A new web site launched today will put the ‘social’ conscience into social networking by enabling users to share experiences and mentor each other anonymously in a safe, hosted environment.

horsesmouth the world’s first ‘pro-social’ networking site is purpose-built for online mentoring on a wide range of topics including education, careers, health, families and relationships and will be free and available to anyone over the age of 16.

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 more 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 commit to formal volunteering charities. horsesmouth allows users to volunteer by sharing their life experiences with others from the comfort of their own homes.

Users can mentor each other on virtually any topic. Anybody seeking advice on how to land their dream job, deal with a health issue or start a business need only type in 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. A key principle of the site is that anyone who has lived and learned and wants to give something back can become a mentor on the site.

Thousands of people have already volunteered to act as mentors on the beta (test) site. One such mentor, 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.”

Another mentor calls herself ‘Felicity’. Her profile reads: “I've been a career coach to managers for 10 years and am good at asking the right questions to help people decide whether to move on, stay in their job, look for another job or go off in a completely different direction.”

horsesmouth is the opposite of Facebook in that users will have to leave their looks behind on the site. Profiles do not contain personal photographs or real names, but make use of a proprietary technology that allows users to embed their user names into a range of images to create personal branding. Online tools have also been created to allow users to rate mentors and allow them to build up their ‘M factor’ as well as a function which mentors can set to manage and monitor the time they are spending on the site.

The site enforces strict security procedures including a unique code texted to your mobile phone on registration which significantly deters people from using multiple profiles and identities which is easy on many other sites. All profiles and postings on the site are professionally moderated, as is conversational content in certain areas of the site.

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 Benevolent Society (NABS)
• National Union of Students (NUS)
• TimeBank
• Tomorrow’s Company
• Youthnet
• Women’s Aid

horsesmouth will also create customised, re-skinned versions of the site as private intranets for large organisations and companies who want highly fit for purpose Web 2. 0 mentoring and knowledge sharing environments for staff and members.

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 was 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 Edge, the foundation which campaigns to raise the status of practical and vocational learning, 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
Email: narda@gongcommunications.com
Tel: +44 (0)20 7935 4800
Mob: +44 (0)7770 888318

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