Pictured: From left, George Pepper (co-founder), Cassandra White (community coordinator) and Freddie Yauner (co-founder)
My name is Cassandra White and I work for Shift.ms as the Community Coordinator.
We're a social network for people with multiple sclerosis (who we call MSers). Our aim is to create a positive, enabling community which empowers MSers to acknowledge their MS, rethink how to achieve their ambitions and get on with their lives. Our hope is that we can provide MSers with the necessary tools and inspiration they need to do this.
Shift.ms was launched in 2009 by George Pepper and his friends, following George's diagnosis with MS at the age of 22. MS is the most commonly diagnosed neurological condition in people in their 20s and 30s in the UK. Despite this, George found it difficult to find other MSers of his age, even online. This frustration led him to set up a website for MSers to meet and share experiences. This later became www.shift.ms.
Today we have over 5,500 members worldwide and we're a registered UK charity.
The main focus of our website is the speakeasy forum. It's there to enable recently diagnosed MSers to talk to others already living with the condition. The forum also allows MSers to compare experiences and learn from each other. It's a safe place, free from judgement. We don't moderate or over-police it, we just have some simple rules about respecting each other's differences. This is enough to ensure that people new to MS feel comfortable to ask about whatever is on their mind, without having to worry about saying the the 'wrong thing'.
Members of our site have profiles, which they can personalise and use to find other MSers of their age and (coming soon) in their area. We're very aware that finding like-minded people with MS is important for MSers. No two Msers are the same; just because two people have MS, doesn't mean they'll get along! As such, we're not about organising meet-ups for people; we simply provide the space for people to meet others with similar interests or attitudes, who just happen to be going through the same thing. We love hearing about how members have met face-to-face after meeting via Shift.ms.
In terms of distributing information, we help MSers to acknowledge and understand their condition in a number of ways.
We allow members to tag their posts on the forum. This means they can easily search for and locate information relevant to them, rather than generic information for everyone. We also explore innovative ways of delivering information about multiple sclerosis, such as our popular films Belong and Gallop.
We like to signpost the community to interesting research or developments and encourage members to do the same.
Our members are at the centre of everything we do, from organisational decisions to conducting interviews with leading MS researchers. We're constantly seeking feedback from them on how to improve, or what we should work on next. They keep us on our toes, which is exactly what we want!
I love what I do, and I know my colleagues George and Freddie do too. We're a small team with big ambitions. We want Shift.ms to be a place where MSers can seek out what they need and who they need to help them come to terms with their MS. We hope that the projects we and our members do help others to feel empowered and inspired enough to carry on with their lives, despite their MS.