Empowerment Institute, founded in 1981 by David Gershon and Gail Straub, is the world's preeminent consulting and training organization specializing in the practice of empowerment. Its empowerment methodology has been applied over the past three decades to achieve measurable and sustainable behavior change at the individual, organizational and community level. A major academic research study described this methodology as “unsurpassed in changing behavior.”
Empowerment Institute’s clients include large corporations, cities, government agencies, nonprofits, and a wide array of societal institutions and social entrepreneurs interested in issues of behavior change, empowerment and large system transformation. Its clients have included American Express, Deloitte, New York City, Philadelphia, the White House, and the United Nations.
Through its professional development training programs, Empowerment Institute has trained over 3,000 empowerment facilitators worldwide who have undergone rigorous instruction that includes both didactic and experiential training. In turn these facilitators have trained hundreds of thousands of people in the empowerment methodology. Through this deep network of empowerment practitioners, Empowerment Institute is able to manage projects of any scale throughout the world.
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In 1981 David Gershon and Gail Straub founded Empowerment Institute to explore the question: how do you empower people to grow and realize their full potential? They wanted to shift the focus from fixing problems and healing the past, to focusing on what we want for our lives, our organizations, our communities, and our world – and how to achieve it. Enabling people to envision and realize their dreams was the approach they called “empowerment.” The term “empowerment” was new in the vernacular of transformation, as was their approach. This transformative social innovation soon began attracting attention.
People came to learn about empowerment for themselves, their organizations, their communities, and their causes. They came from all over North America, Europe and Latin America, but also from Afghanistan, Darfur, Rwanda, South Africa, China, Russia, and India.
David Gershon, co-founder and CEO of Empowerment Institute has been called “the number one expert on social change.” He applies his visionary leadership and social change expertise to designing second order change solutions for cities, countries and the planet that enable the seemingly impossible to become possible. Over the past four decades the initiatives he’s designed have won many awards and achieved much recognition.
In 1986 David organized, at the height of the cold war, the passing of a torch of peace around the world. The First Earth Run, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund directly engaged twenty-five million people and 45 heads-of-state in 62 countries. Over a billion people watched the torch via the media circumnavigate the globe. For 86 days wherever the torch of peace went all wars stopped and the world was united as one. Since then this modern day mythic story embodying humanity’s noblest aspiration for peace on earth and the oneness of humanity has continued to be told all over the world.
David is author of twelve books, including the award- winning Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World and the best-selling Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life as You Want It. He co-directs Empowerment Institute’s School for Transformative Social Change which empowers social entrepreneurs from around the world to design and implement second order change social innovations. He has lectured at Harvard, MIT, and Johns Hopkins and served as an advisor to the Clinton White House and the United Nations on empowerment.
He is currently working on an initiative called: “A Bottom-Up Grand Strategy to Reinvent the Planet: Building Second Order Change Capacity Around the Five Strategic Levers—Climate, Development Peace, Knowledge and Money.” David has dedicated his life to empowering humanity to believe we can create the world of our dreams and designing the strategies and tools to help us make this a reality.
Gail Straub, co-founder and Executive Director of Empowerment Institute, is one of the world’s leading authorities on women’s empowerment. As part of this focus, she co-founded IMAGINE: A Global Initiative for the Empowerment of Women to help women heal from violence, build strong lives, and contribute to their community. This initiative applies the Institute’s empowerment methodology to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal “to promote gender equality and empower women.” IMAGINE initiatives are under way in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Jordan Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan and South Africa.
Dozens of corporations and non-profits have been trained or formed strategic partnerships to implement Empowerment Institute’s methodology. Some of the larger or more well know clients include:
Empowerment Institute’s non-profit research arm, Global Action Plan, has received the following foundation support for its research and development initiatives around behavior change, community empowerment and sustainable development.
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Photos of David and Gail are by Dion Ogust.