Center for Transformative Action

The CTA helps create communities that are socially just, ecologically sound and that 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. Their courage, innovative thinking, and heart-centered approach show us what is possible.

CTA is an independent 501(c)3 organization affiliated with Cornell University since 1971.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

The term “social entrepreneurship” describes innovative, solutions-focused initiatives for expanding social justice, peace, and environmental sustainability. Whether for-profit or not-for-profit, such initiatives aim to catalyze systemic change that ultimately transforms the economy so it works for everyone. The primary purpose of a social enterprise is to create social impact. Collaboration, cooperation, distributive leadership and regenerative practices are core principles. While new to the highly competitive (predominantly White) entrepreneurial discourse, these practices have deep historical roots in the Black cooperative movement of the U.S. that created alternative economic strategies to promote economic stability and independence in the face of White supremacist oppression and violence.

Social entrepreneurship is less about creating new ventures or ‘going to scale’ and more about partnering with others across sectors and difference in new ways to create an equitable, just and ecologically sound economy. We believe the practices of Transformative Action are essential for this work.

Why is Transformative Action Important?

Transformative Action is an alternative paradigm for social action that moves us beyond complaint, competition and “us versus them” thinking. Inspired by the non-violent organizing that erupted in the last century, Transformative Action has three basic components: (1) breaking the silence that surrounds injustice, (2) building an inclusive movement based on empathy and understanding that can bridge differences and transform adversaries into allies, and (3) articulating an inspiring, proactive and practical vision for change.

By breaking the silence around injustice, we affirm a fundamental premise of a just society: what dehumanizes you also dehumanizes me. Making the choice to speak out about injustice takes courage. It can require great emotional strength and the willingness to suffer unpleasant consequences. This action alone can transform both those who act and those who witness.

Transformative Action promotes the idea that our efforts to expand social justice are more fruitful when we replace “me against you” strategies with strategies that answer the question: “What is best for us?” This takes confidence that conflict need not be a zero-sum game, in which one of us wins and the other loses. Instead, we listen for shared values, common objectives, and opportunities for mutual benefit. We take time to build alliances, recognizing that true leadership emerges not from individuals alone but from communities working together for a common cause.

Transforming me against you thinking often entails attending to anger, pain, and resentment—our own and those of others. For most of us, this is uncomfortable. Yet, as a practical matter, people are more likely to listen to our views after having their own anger and pain authentically acknowledged. We are more likely to hear them, if our own anger has lifted.

It is worth taking time to consider this further. Anger is powerful and at times constructive. Yet, it also has a way of becoming a disempowering fixture in our lives. It can keep us from facing our complicity in our own condition, from identifying the real source of our pain, and from creating much-needed alliances. This insight is essential if we are to transform a stalemate between apparent foes into a unified, inclusive effort against common challenges.

What truly inspires people are innovative approaches that allow us to see new possibilities. When it comes to today’s tough problems (global climate change, systemic prejudice, food crises, terror, persistent poverty) we must go beyond the methods that got us here in the first place. We must release old habits of thinking in order to imagine creative and participatory solutions. An inspiring vision of what we are for—that stays clear of blaming or shaming and resonates with our deepest values and beliefs—encourages us to choose connection over alienation, joy over despair, solutions over bitterness, and new insights over habitual responses. We imagine a positive future, bring it forward into the present, and then live—moment by moment—into the world we wish to create.

At CTA, we strive to embody the ideals of Transformative Action as a means of social and personal transformation.

How can I get fiscal sponsorship?

Fiscal sponsorship is a common means by which individuals and organizations can start new, nonprofit programs without establishing a separate 501(c)3 organization. This alternative allows you to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under your sponsor’s tax-exempt status. There are several forms of fiscal sponsorship (see Greg Colvin’s Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways To Do It Right), but in every case, the fiscal sponsor is required to ensure that all funding received on behalf of your project will be utilized for tax-exempt, charitable purposes as defined in the internal revenue code.

CTA offers two forms of fiscal sponsorship: 1) the Comprehensive Direct Project Fiscal Sponsorship (Model A), where CTA assumes all legal and fiduciary responsibility for your project and your project has no separate legal standing, and 2) the Pre-approved Grant Project (Model C), where CTA re-grants funds received from a donor to your project and is not legally responsible for your project’s operations or programs. The Model C arrangement requires that your project be incorporated as a nonprofit organization in New York State.

Explore our Fiscal Sponsorship options.

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