ESD Global Leaps from an Exciting Startup to a Global Enterprise


ESD Global is in the middle of an exciting organizational growth spurt, taking the leap from a startup to a truly global enterprise with a virtual office and over 30 international staff, contractors, and interns. What started as an idea Yehudit (Yudit) Zicklin-Sidikman shared with her friend Ellen Krause-Grosman three years ago, has grown into a global organization bent on making the world a better place!

“It is not often that you get to dream a crazy wonderful dream with a dear friend over a summer lunch and then see it blossom into this amazing organization that we have lovingly crafted and created!”, says Yudit, ESD Global President and Founder.


The founder of Make Your Vision Real, with over 20 years of experience growing new organizations, Ellen succeeded in seeing Yudit’s vision through, scaling ESD Global into a global movement providing education to establish Empowerment Self-Defense as a key violence prevention strategy for women and vulnerable populations around the world.


Transforming an idea into an institution capable of doing positive things in the world is what Ellen does best, and ESD Global has been her most fun project to date! “Yudit is a true visionary who understands the need for violence prevention education on a personal level, on a visceral level and on a community level. It's been an amazing opportunity and joy to partner with her in building this organization because I care deeply about Empowerment Self Defense. The people who are attracted to this movement are amazing individuals whom I have learned so much from! I’m very proud of my contribution leading ESD Global to its next phase of leadership. At this moment in time I am exploring what the next challenging project that requires my skills as a leader of transformation will be!" shares Ellen.


Under Ellen’s leadership, a true paradigm shift in Empowerment Self-Defense was realized, making ESD training accessible globally by training ESD trainers to teach in their own communities, as well as supporting research and programs that increase awareness about the benefits of ESD.


Ellen describes ESD Global as a catalyzer: “Our goal is not to deliver Empowerment Self-Defense classes to users around the globe. Our goal is to train trainers and to support engagement and partnerships between ESD Instructors in all aspects of civil society.” In a very short period, ESD Global has done just that, creating a global network of ESD graduates, with over 150 ESD instructors, who are, in turn, training thousands of women and children in over 50 countries!


Ellen believes that Empowerment Self-Defense is useful for absolutely everybody, describing it as a finite set of skills that make a huge difference in one's life. Ellen came into Martial Arts and ESD after surviving an assault. Although she managed to save her own life by screaming for help, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Concerned about her safety, she was constantly checking doors and windows, too scared to walk in the woods by herself.


“That was not a quality of life that was acceptable to me. My journey into Empowerment Self-Defense was one about contending with fear and trauma and wanting to reclaim my sense of safety and freedom. Empowerment means that I know that as a woman, as a girl, as a child, as a human, I am entitled to defend myself and I have the skills to do so. I am precious. I am powerful. It is my right and obligation to leverage my power and my skills. I deserve my best efforts.

The skills which can save your life in a violent situation can also improve your self-esteem, your sense of well-being and equanimity. ESD skills, like asserting boundaries or communicating effectively also have a positive impact in professional, communal, familial, and financial situations”, says Ellen.


Despite being impacted the COVID-19 pandemic, the ESD Global community has come together, pivoting quickly to keep women and children safe at a time when rates of violence were escalating. Although in-person trainings were put on hold, a global network of resilient community members built an ESD movement online. ESD Global is offering virtual programs for humanitarian workers and refugees, and professional development opportunities for ESD instructors, including an ESD Trauma Certification course.

“COVID-19 has forced us to look good and hard at what types of content we can be sharing virtually, which may never replace the importance of face-to-face work, and can help spread the learning and teaching of skills for violence prevention that we hold are basic human rights”, says Yudit. Indeed, ESD Global has reached an inflection point and is ready to transition under the guide of new leadership as it launches into its next phase.


Yudit is proud of this growth and the foundational role Ellen played: “it means that we have truly set down strong roots,” she says. “It has been my honor working with Ellen over the past three years. How wonderful it is that we could both see that this young "plant" needs a bigger pot to continue to grow in? It's healthy to give room for roots to spread and take a firm hold, so that the tree can grow tall and give the support and shade for our mission. We always knew this day would come. I think it is a strong testament to Ellen's heart, head, and talented hands, that she brought to this process, that we have grown this big and this strong so fast. Hat's off to you! And, of course, looking forward to hearing about your next awesome project!”


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