About Us

The Center for Transformative Action (CTA) helps create communities that are socially just, ecologically sound, and work for everyone. We do this through our educational programs, and by supporting system-changing projects with incubator and fiscal sponsorship services. Our projects work to transform the structures, as well as the habits of mind, that produce inequities in our communities, country, and the world. Through their innovative methods, as well as their successes and challenges, they show us what is possible. 

CTA is an educational non-profit organization affiliated with Cornell University. 

Our Vision

We envision change makers everywhere engaging and strengthening the power of the heart to remake the world.

Our Mission 

We are an alliance of individuals and organizations inspired by principles of nonviolence and committed to bold action for justice, sustainability, and peace. CTA supports change makers with the tools to build thriving, inclusive communities that work for everyone. We serve our projects, the public, and Cornell University by offering educational programs and strategic organizational resources.

Our Commitment to Diversity

We recognize that to develop truly effective and systemic solutions, diverse ideas, experiences, and frames of reference are essential.  Moreover, a wide range of perspectives enriches our discussions, enhances our decision-making process, and makes for a more responsive and sustainable organization.   

We also believe that our ability to solve and move past the challenges of our times rests on our ability to listen to each other with deep respect. This takes being able to suspend our position for a moment to truly hear and understand what another is saying. 

Finally, taking the time to build relationships and develop trust is fundamental to creating an inclusive organization as well as a community that works for everyone. 

We realize that these practices are central to our mission and require continuous attention as well as intention. To this end, we commit to:

  • examine and undo the ways in which our organization's norms and culture may replicate practices of exclusion;
  • create programs with the leadership and insight of those they aim to serve;
  • promote practices that will increase the diversity of our staff and participants; and
  • foster a culture that feels accessible and inclusive, where everyone has the experience of being heard. 


Our History

Opening in 1971 as the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy as an affiliate of Cornell University, our organization has supported innovative and experimental projects that provide constructive alternatives to society’s most pressing social problems. In 2006, we re-focused our vision to deal with a polarized global society and brought Transformative Action to the forefront of our efforts, changing our name to reflect our new vision.

Operating in the cradle of Cornell University, our Center plays a unique role, offering programs to Cornell University as an affiliate and serving as an incubator for  innovative social change organizations. We serve these organizations, the public, and Cornell University by offering educational programs and strategic organizational resources. In 2011, we expanded our fiscal sponsorship offerings to include organizations across New York State. 

Our Theory of Change

History and culture have produced social norms that structure how we work, socialize, engage, and even think. Layered within them are messages about what is good, right, worthy, and heroic--and what, or who, is not. While these messages may guide us to behave well, they also reinforce a fear of those unlike us. This fear and the anger that runs close on its heels shut down our natural impulse to empathize and connect--to act from the heart. 

"Us vs. them" thinking, polarized positioning, and discord across differences such as race, class, ethnicity, religion, or political leanings result. Experiences of being threatened and wronged by the "other" can justify patterns of exclusion, injustice and violence that tear at the fabric of our communities--and our very being. 

Transformative Action calls for courage to break the silence that surrounds these injustices; patience and compassion to build an inclusive movement for systemic change; imagination to stay free from “us vs. them” strategies; and inspiration to envision new solutions to common challenges. 

When we animate the power of our hearts in these ways, bold actions result:

  • We find common purpose with others
  • Take pressing social problems in hand
  • Live our lives out loud
  • Listen deeply, act courageously
  • Transform ourselves and each other
  • And ultimately co-create thriving, inclusive communities that work for everyone.

At CTA, our projects and initiatives engage and strengthen the power of the heart, and our services support bold change makers. Because Ithaca, Cornell University, and New York exist in a far-reaching network, the impact of those empowered through our programs ripples across the country and the world, transforming lives and communities. This is our vision for change.

Our Organization Model

CTA employs a hybrid organizational model. We are a non-profit but gain some cost recovery through the provision of business services to our Project Partners for which we charge an administrative fee.

To sustain the transformation activities of our organization, however, we mobilize other sources of funding which include income from a Cornell-held endowment, gifts from donors, and grants from the public and/or philanthropic sectors. Our Project Partners each develop their own funding sources within our non-profit structure.