Biz Stone and the Power of Giving Back

We've decided to kick off the first official week of the new Huffington Post Media Group at AOL with a "30-Day Service Challenge" to all AOL/HuffPost employees worldwide, encouraging them to find ways to give back to their local communities.
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At HuffPost, we've always aimed to be more than just a trusted source for news and information -- we've also wanted to be a catalyst for engagement. As such, we've worked to combine the power of social media and online journalism by taking our users beyond just reading stories about their community and their world, and providing ways for them to become involved in those stories.

It's why we launched HuffPost Impact in October 2009. As I wrote at the time, it was an idea I'd been pursuing in one form or another for over 15 years. Back in the early '90s, I remember making the rounds in Washington, pitching the idea of creating C-SPAN 3, a channel devoted 24/7 to the work of nonprofit groups and giving back.

I pictured people being able to tune in at any time, day or night, and see programming that moved them, and inspired them to take action. That was before I recognized the power of 24/7 engagement made possible by the Internet -- so that with a click and a link we can not only learn all about a cause but also immediately take action... and make an impact. And that's exactly what we've been doing with our Impact section.

It's also why we've decided to kick off the first official week of the new Huffington Post Media Group at AOL with a "30-Day Service Challenge" to all AOL/HuffPost employees worldwide, encouraging them to find ways to give back to their local communities. Starting today and throughout the month, AOLers and HuffPosters (who are now AOLers!) will be volunteering in their local communities -- from preparing food for families and individuals in need at the L.A. Food Bank to dancing with elderly residents of nursing homes in New York City, a volunteering opportunity presented by New York Cares, AOL's New York partner for the initiative.

In addition, today on every section of HuffPost we're featuring stories about organizations and individuals who are taking action to help others -- including our page showing all the ways you can support relief efforts currently going on in Japan.

For instance, HuffPost World is spotlighting Heifer International, a group alleviating hunger around the world by donating livestock to needy families. The idea is that by giving a goat, cow, or other livestock, the family will not only get food but also an income stream generated by the production of eggs, milk, wool or other products. As part of the program, each beneficiary then donates an offspring of their animal to another family, so that a donation to the group has a multiplier effect.

HuffPost Health is covering a program called Nurse-Family Partnership, which gives support to low-income first-time mothers around the country. Each mom-to-be is linked up with a public health nurse who helps her make the right choices for her child's first two years. From good nutrition to avoiding substance abuse, the idea is to intervene before problems arise.

HuffPost Business features the story of Imran Farooq, a 26-year-old USC graduate student who has developed a promising model for how neighborhoods can work together to resist foreclosures and stop plummeting property values. HuffPost Arts is showcasing P.S. Arts, which raises funds for arts education programs in struggling public schools, and has been hailed around the country as a model.

Our Green section is featuring Green For All, whose goal is to create jobs and help improve lives everywhere by building a clean energy economy. Both former CEO Van Jones and current CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins blog regularly for us, and Phaedra was recently featured as HuffPost's "Greatest Person of the Day."

And our New York section is shining a light on Elevate New York, a group that uses mentoring, education and job-training to support at-risk youth in New York City.

As part of the Service Challenge, Tim Armstrong and I will be teaching a class today at the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn. It's part of the Citizen Schools program, which pairs professionals with public schools to bring hands-on learning experiences to students in low-income school districts.

Engagement and empathy are especially important during hard times. We can choose to isolate ourselves and refuse to see what's going on around us, or we can choose to connect and engage. When we choose to reach out, the beneficiary isn't just the person or community we're helping, but ourselves as well.

It's a concept more and more companies are embracing. And we hope to strengthen that embrace, which is why I'm so happy to announce that Biz Stone, the co-founder and creative director of Twitter, will be joining us as our Strategic Adviser for Social Impact. In this role, he'll advise The Huffington Post Media Group and all of AOL on social impact and cause-based initiatives, develop a platform to facilitate people doing service in their communities, rally other companies to invest in and deploy the best corporate practices, and create and develop a video series spotlighting leading companies and executives at the forefront of philanthropy and corporate responsibility. In the process we hope to create a template for best practices for corporate responsibility and positive social impact.

Biz has shown that having a healthy balance sheet and a healthy moral center are not mutually exclusive. It's one of the reasons we named him and his wife, wildlife activist Livia Stone, two of our 2010 Impact Game Changers.

As Biz puts it: "The definition of success is changing as we begin to understand the value of helping others. My goal in partnering with AOL and The Huffington Post Media Group is ambitious but vitally important. Together we will rally companies to think about new ways of doing business, share best practices, and strive for positive impact at all levels -- from global to local."

So check out the Giving Back stories on all of our sections -- and we hope you'll join us in utilizing the power of online journalism to help people get involved, work together, and bring about real change.

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