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Changing the World, One Step at a Time

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In March, I spent a fascinating couple of days at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford. It was exhilarating -- and deeply moving -- to hear example after example of social entrepreneurs making measurable improvements in lives all around the world. More recently, during the Republican and Democratic conventions, HuffPost hosted a jobs expo, bringing together entrepreneurs to showcase their latest innovations and ideas for job creation. And until November 15th, we are accepting applications from job-creating nonprofits for our JobRaising challenge, which is putting the spotlight on the untapped creativity of the nonprofit sector -- powered by the fundraising potential of crowdfunding.

The incredible response to these events and initiatives is a reminder of our collective ability to tap into our own innovation, passion, and empathy -- qualities we desperately need if we're going to move beyond the new normal. On the political level, we're polarized and paralyzed, as the media refuses to acknowledge that the crises we are facing go beyond the reductive and obsolete dichotomy of left vs. right. Pushing back against the failures of our leaders and institutions -- and the resulting lack of trust -- is a growing movement of people and organizations taking the initiative to engage, connect, solve problems, share, and change their communities and the world. While we wait for our public leaders to act, thousands are looking at the leader in the mirror instead and taking action. By daring to take risks and to fail as many times as necessary before they succeed, they are remaking the world.

We see this in the people whose stories are featured in the pages of a new book, Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time, by Katrina Fried and photographer Paul Mobley. Some of them I've known and admired for a long time -- like Geoffrey Canada, whose tireless work at the Harlem Children's Zone has transformed thousands of lives and an entire neighborhood. And DonorsChoose.org founder Charles Best, who has used technology to connect donors to classrooms and teachers around the country.

Others were new to me, and I was inspired by their determination to change the world. There's Dr. David Vanderpool, who started Mobile Medical Disaster Relief, administering medical care in developing countries. And Abigail Falik, founder of Global Citizen Year, which recruits high school graduates for a year of service and leadership training in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

"We are on the cusp of an epic shift," wrote Jeremy Rifkin in his 2010 book, The Empathic Civilization. "The Age of Reason is being eclipsed by the Age of Empathy." He makes the case that as technology is increasingly connecting us to one another, we need to understand that the most important goal of all this connectivity is to allow us to see ourselves as an extended family living in an interconnected world with responsibilities to one another. The heroes of this book are the embodiment of this age of empathy.