The Beginning

At the invitation of the Collaborative’s Founder, Peter Lederer, several representatives from area colleges and schools, and from non-profit organizations began meeting in the spring and fall of 2018. These founding members of the Collaborative came together because they recognized the urgent need for expanded civics learning and civic engagement opportunities for both students and adults in the Greater Southern Tier. They realized that the time was ripe for this type of initiative, for an independent, nonpartisan organization to create, plan, and implement multiple, diverse, and replicable civics learning, civic action, and civil discourse opportunities. The initial group agreed to work together to address this gap in civic education in the region.

These initial discussions led to the Summer 2019 Future Leaders Program for middle school students, held at Corning Community College. Also, in September of 2019, a workshop at Corning Community College brought together a diverse group from a 14 county region of New York, including representatives from: colleges, universities, public and private K-12 schools, libraries and museums, economic development agencies, and philanthropic organizations. This workshop laid the foundation for the Civics4Action Collaborative by formulating and recommending the purposes of the Collaborative, a mission statement, and a statement of values.

The founding members’ assessment of the status of civics learning in the Greater Southern Tier, was confirmed by an in-depth, Fall, 2021 study, which concluded “that there is a lack of civic education across the 14 Greater Southern Tier Counties.” The study was done on behalf of the Collaborative by students at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The founding members of the Collaborative came together initially because of a shared view of the current poor state of civics education in their home region. They made a commitment to take action.

Rationale For The Collaborative

Nationally, a movement is occurring, shining a spotlight on the need for universal civic education and informed, actively engaged citizens. An array of prominent individuals, organizations, foundations, colleges/universities, state departments of education, and the U.S. Department of Education are working, through various means, to increase and improve civic education throughout the country. These diverse efforts are based on the fact that there is a serious decline in fundamental civic learning at all levels of our educational systems.

Additionally, in 2020-2022, ongoing political and public health crises strained the nation’s civic infrastructure. The global pandemic highlighted an array of social inequalities that require citizen action to solve. Simultaneously, antidemocratic movements/forces showed distrust in elections and have prompted a wave of voter suppression tactics. This is the context for our work.


The Collaborative is an Affiliate of the South Central Regional Library Council(SCRLC). The Collaborative is also a member of the Museum Association of New York(MANY).This is significant because the Collaborative’s plans call for the cultivation of working relationships and strategic partnerships with the region’s many public and school libraries and with area museums and historical societies. These memberships give the Collaborative standing with library and museum leaders and thereby facilitate our work. We also belong to the New York Council of NonProfits.

Civics Hubs, The Centerpiece of the Collaborative

Summary Statement

The Civics4Action Collaborative works with local museums and libraries to develop Civics Hubs where residents, youth and adults, can learn about how government functions in their community and how their community fits into local, county, state, and national government.

As envisioned by the Civics4Acton Collaborative, both young and adult residents will have opportunities to learn how to make their voices heard on local and national issues in a civil manner.

The Civics4Action Collaborative (C4A) is based in the Corning, New York area. C4A is dedicated to improving the level of civics understanding, civic engagement, and civil discourse throughout New York’s Greater Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Central Regions. C4A seeks partnerships with area museums and libraries to form Civics Hubs to help educate, engage and inspire the local communities served by those institutions.

In 2022, C4A formally incorporated and received IRS 501c3 status. However, C4A first formed as a group of concerned citizens in 2018. In 2019, we planned and implemented some initial programs, including a summer camp for students held at Corning Community College. Our progress was interrupted by the Covid pandemic. With a newly formed Board of Directors and group of advisors in 2023, we are re-energized in pursuit of our mission.

Civics Hubs are first and foremost, places: museums and libraries. C4A is deliberately looking to partner with museums and libraries to broaden community use of these two types of institutions that remain in high regard by most Americans. The goal of C4A is to educate residents about our civic responsibilities, and about how our government is structured and how it is designed to operate from the local level to the federal level and all points in between. We are looking for respected neutral spaces to hold nonpartisan civics educational programming and civil community conversations.

Secondly, Civics Hubs utilize the unique collections held in each museum and library. Every organization has its own unique story to tell which includes specific books, recordings, collections, journals, artifacts, artwork, documents and other items and information that help tell that story. C4A looks to use these unique resources to help fill out a more encompassing story. Perhaps there is a former elected official from the area near the museum or library whose history is illustrative of the more generic programming from C4A, or perhaps the story of how the museum or library was founded and funded can bring to light the story of politics in action at a more local level. The goal is to help connect people’s daily lived experiences, their stories and everyday local events to a larger civics’ initiative.

Third, the focus of a Civics Hub is local people. C4A understands that many potential Civics Hubs have a small staff, or are run entirely by volunteers. Enter the Traveling Civics Ambassadors Program, envisioned by C4A: Over time, our goal is to make trained Civics Ambassadors available to libraries and museums to help them build out their capacity to implement civics programming. C4A views museum and library personnel as the local programming experts. Effective C4A programming at each Hub will be facilitated by these local experts, with the assistance of Civics Ambassadors, at that particular site, and will reflect local issues, local history, current community needs and interests.

Two C4A programs are particularly adaptable to local circumstances. C4A’s Future Leaders Program, an outside-of-the-classroom, experiential learning opportunity, is designed to be flexible. C4A’s Community Conversations, which use the National Issues Forums Institute’s methodology, is similarly flexible and well-suited for locally oriented Civics Hubs. Information about these Programs is included in the Learning Resources section of this website.

Each Civics Hub will be unique. For instance, a library may serve as a Hub and host C4A for regular moderated discussions on civics topics, and a museum might incorporate C4A goals into an exhibit with a civics discussion about that exhibit. This is a new beginning for the Civics4Action Collaborative, following two years of planning, but no in-person programming. During that time, C4A did collaborate with Humanities New York, holding three virtual, state-wide community conversations.

Members of the Civics4Action Board of Directors are open to listening and learning. How the Civics Hubs and the Civics Ambassadors Program are envisioned today may not be how they work out tomorrow and this is perfectly acceptable. We expect that our Civics Hub partners will work with us in developing programming, sharing ideas and helping us improve our own operation as we collaboratively work to expand civics learning, civic engagement, and civil discourse, and empower both our youth and adults in our multi-county region of New York.

Board of Directors


G. Peter Lederer, Ed.D.
Founder and President
Retired College Administrator and Business Owner
Big Flats, New York

Dr. Melissa A. Gaeke
Vice President
Director, Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership
Senior Professional Lecturer in Political Science
Marist College
Poughkeepsie, New York

Bruce Whitmarsh
Chemung County Historical Society and Museum
Vice President, Museum Association of New York
Elmira, New York

Board Members

Christine Brown
Outreach Services Librarian
South Central Regional Library Council (SCRLC)
Ithaca, New York

Erin Cannan
Vice President For Civic Engagement
Advisory Committee: Partners For Campus-Community Engagement. (PCCE) 
Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

Jessica Moquin                     
Chenango County Historical Society and Museum                     
Norwich, New York

Dr. Grant Reeher
Professor, Political Science
Director, Campbell Public Affairs Institute
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York

Shawna Reilly
Director Of Education
Historic Cherry
Albany, New York

Special Advisors To The Board of Directors:

Mary-Carol Lindbloom
Executive Director
South Central Regional Library Council
Ithaca, New York

Junko Takeda, Ph.D.
Professor, History Department
Chair, Citizenship and Civic Engagement
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York

Claire Lovell
Digital Services Librarian
South Central Regional Library Council
Ithaca, New York

Collaborative Members Emeriti

Denise W. King
Retired Middle School Teacher
Past President, Southern tier Library System Board of Trustees
Elmira, New York

Carla Michalak
Civic Engagement and History
SUNY Broome Community College
Binghamton, New York

Scarlett Rebman
Director of Grants
Humanities New York
New York City

Judy Rowe
Principal, Rowe Consulting LLC
Member of the Board of Directors
Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes
Corning, New York

Jennifer Sellers
Applied Learning Coordinator
Instructor, Professional Studies
Corning Community College
Corning, New York

Dr. Jim Twombly
Professor of Political Science
Elmira College
Elmira, New York