Social network launched by local mom takes off



Sopris Sun

February 10, 2011

By Terray Sylvester

Social network launched by local mom takes off

When enough social capital accumulates, it must become contagious.

That’s one lesson that can be taken from the successes, so far, of a homegrown social networking Website designed to help mothers of all ages share insights and advice for child-raising – as well as its joy, pains and occasional frustrations. The network is hyper-local, so individual Websites are set up to serve individual communities. The first site was launched in Carbondale a little over a year ago, and after that it didn’t take long for the concept to catch on in the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond. Sites have now taken root in Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Aspen, as well as Grand Junction, Bend, Ore., and Whitefish, Mont. If all goes according to plan another site will soon launch in Park City, Utah.

The social network is named Moms For Moms, and it was created by Carbondale mother Janine Cuthbertson. All together, the various Websites now have a membership of over 1,000, Cuthbertson said. But she hopes that number is about to grow larger: Just last week she launched a new umbrella Website (momsformomscommunities.com) for the network as whole, which will streamline the process for mothers in communities across the U.S. – and potentially around the world – to set up sites of their own. It’s such a gift to be part of one of these that I really want to give that gift to other mothers,” said Cuthbertson, a mother of two who picked up some of her tech savvy while working as a technology integrator for the Aspen School District.

The Carbondale Website describes Moms For Moms as “a social network for our local community of mothers to connect, inform, support and inspire one another.” Cuthbertson says the core of the site is its community forum. The forum is really the heart of the site where all the mom-to-mom communication happens,” she said. “It’s really why it exists … because raising kids can be very isolating.” On the forum, mothers can post everything from tips for dealing with teething children to thoughts on local schools. Earlier this week on the Carbondale site, which has 345 members, mothers were posting want ads for strollers, sharing advice on teaching kids to ski and discussing a documentary on education slated to be screened later in the week. Among other features, the sites also include space for event listings, classifieds and a section for organizing groups, such as, on the Carbondale site, an activist book club for mothers, a group for parents who want to go camping together and a group to help moms barter goods and services.

The site also includes “a local chamber of commerce for moms,” Cuthbertson said. For a fee, mothers who own local businesses can join the Moms’ Business Consortium, and use the network to post sales, events and other announcements. Businesses can also buy ad space on the site. The Carbondale site currently has 19 business members. It’s tempting to compare the Moms For Moms network to Facebook, since the two Websites share some basic traits. But Cuthbertson resists that association, pointing out that in many ways, Moms For Moms is the opposite of its colossal older cousin.

While Facebook is global, Moms For Moms serves individual communities. While Facebook users are often wise to censor their personal sites from the potential prying eyes of the site’s millions of users, Moms For Moms is intimate, a network of friends, family and acquaintances. [Facebook] is just so broad, and the information is fun but not always relevant,” Cuthbertson said. “I think with my sites you gain an extra level of trust and safety … people really trust each other and use real names and talk about actual children.” To maintain that level of intimacy, Cuthbertson and the mothers who manage the sites in other towns moderate the membership to ensure that each participant really is a local mom.

Cuthbertson hopes the ties forged through her social network will benefit the community as a whole as well. To celebrate the first anniversary of the network, she has launched the Moms for Moms Community Fund, which will give $100 to a local organization or cause. It’s a small start, but Cuthbertson hopes the network will eventually become a “philanthropic force” in Carbondale. She would also like the network to become a hub for collective action. As she sees it, a connected, engaged group of mothers can become a positive force in a community.

The tagline of the network is “Building stronger communities by connecting mothers,” said Cuthbertson, who dipped her feet into community organizing by spearheading an aid drive for victims of the earthquake in Haiti last January. If we have 345 moms that can rally behind a cause that’s important to us, we can really do a lot,” she said.

Next steps:

To learn more about Carbondale Moms For Moms, visit www.carbondalemomsformoms.com, or visit the umbrella Website for the network: www.momsformomscommunities.com. Janine Cuthbertson is currently looking for mothers in Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Aspen to manage the networks in those communities. Cuthbertson can be reached at Janine@momsformomscommunities.com.

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