PACS news / September 30, 2020

Stanford PACS Welcomes Carla Eckhardt as Executive Director

Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society is thrilled to announce the appointment of Carla Eckhardt as executive director. 

With more than 25 years of leadership experience in nonprofit, academic, and for-profit settings, Carla brings deep expertise and commitment to her role in guiding the Stanford PACS and SSIR community in its cross-sector work to strengthen philanthropy and civil society worldwide. Carla will officially assume her new position in late October.

“Carla Eckhardt combines decades of leadership experience, inside and outside the academy, with a keen understanding of how to translate research into action, build global partnerships, and manage a diverse and stellar team of scholars, students, and staff alongside the award-winning Stanford Social Innovation Review,” says Rob Reich, professor of political science and the Marc and Laura Andreessen Faculty Codirector of PACS. “We can’t wait to begin working with her.”

Carla joins Stanford PACS from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), where as senior director, Office of Global Women’s Health and Special Issues in Women’s Health, she oversaw international program implementation and partnerships advancing women’s health initiatives via education, innovation, development, and advocacy. 

“Joining PACS is an honor because I find the work of the team and faculty so compelling, dynamic and provocative,” said incoming executive director Carla Eckhardt of her accepting this new role. “I look forward to continuing the success of the programs and labs, and helping to forge the new paths that adapt to the exceptional challenges facing our society today.”

Prior to ACOG, Carla served as country director for Ethiopia and Mexico for Marie Stopes International, where she oversaw 24 reproductive health centers, 600 social franchises, 100 public facility partner sites, a team of 595 staff, and a $21 million operating budget. Carla is also the former executive director of two reproductive health think tanks at the University of California, San Francisco, for which she oversaw operations in their development of social science research. 

Through these and other leadership appointments, Carla is a deeply experienced senior manager with a global perspective and a wide range of expertise, from organizational management and strategic planning to program implementation, fund development, leadership training, and more. 

“Carla is a true servant leader with a fantastic passion for advancing philanthropy and civil society globally and shares our vision for continually increasing PACS’ impact,” says Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, chairman of the PACS Advisory Board and founder and president of the Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen Foundation. “I could not be more excited about her arrival.”

“Carla will be a perfect fit with PACS,” says Robb Willer, professor of sociology and the Marc and Laura Andreessen Faculty Codirector of Stanford PACS. “She joins us with a wealth of experience, broad acclaim as a manager, a sincere commitment to public service, and a track record of good works that is global in its reach.”

“The search process was diligent and extensive, with dozens of strong applicants who were carefully vetted,” says Walter W. Powell, professor of education and sociology and the Marc and Laura Andreessen Faculty Codirector of PACS. “We think we chose the right one for PACS’ next decade.” 



Get to Know Carla 

PACS: What excites you about becoming the new executive director of PACS? 

Carla Eckhardt: I am most excited about the content of the work. In these extraordinary times of disruption and change, we must seize the opportunity to redesign and re-imagine the systems that form our civil society. I am a generalist and an administrator which means that I get to run the operations and help design strategy for PACS. I see my role as the artist who prepares the canvas so that others may paint. The preparation of the canvas is very important. You must be specific and intentional for the best work to be achieved whether it is a small watercolor or a large-scale public mural. PACS offers such important research and information to the various stakeholders to improve philanthropy, strengthen civil society, and address societal challenges, and the canvas upon which they create that work is the PACS organization. I am proud to support that platform. Extending the art analogy, I can also serve as a docent to the work PACS and SSIR produce. My work in nonprofits, as a recipient of philanthropic donations and implementing programs in the US and in global settings, helps me understand the work that PACS and SSIR produce and helps me translate them so they can be hardwired into the operations of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.


PACS: Up to now you have spent your entire career working at organizations focused on health. What attracted you to that field and why did you stay in it for so long?

Carla Eckhardt: I believe one form of advocacy is by “doing.” I felt my work in women’s health and healthcare delivery was important because it not only provided women with care, but it also supported their right to choose their family size, empower their decision making, and support their efforts to get out of poverty. I chose to work in the nonprofit sector specifically because it allowed me to work with the most vulnerable populations and in difficult political environments. It is a privilege to live your values, and my work at PACS, I believe, will extend my personal alignment between my values and my effort in the world.


PACS: When you were at Marie Stopes you were country director for Ethiopia and Mexico. What impressed you most about each country, and what one thing would you recommend that people do if they visit each country?

Carla Eckhardt: Both countries are so rich in culture, music, and natural beauty. But I am a foodie (like most of you in the Bay Area) so my recommendation in both countries is to EAT! The foods are so amazing. In Ethiopia the injera and Doro Wat are amazing, but don’t let that stop you from also enjoying the incredible espresso, Italian foods, and amazing German breads. In Mexico, the street food like barbacoa with fresh green salsa and the handmade tortillas you find in the smaller towns in the Mercado are life affirming! So once COVID is properly contained, get out there and travel to those amazing countries. I am happy to consult with you on your trip.


PACS: You will be leaving Washington, D.C. and moving to the Bay Area. What will you miss most about living in the nation’s capital?

Carla Eckhardt: I think the region has a lot to offer, from the free museums and highly engaged political environment to the amazing Shenandoah mountains. But I believe every place and region has a lot to offer. I think I will miss the seasons most—the amazing fall foliage and snow in the winter. I am sure I will find my way to Tahoe to visit the snow, however, so I’m not too worried about that.


PACS: You lived in the Bay Area before. What excites you the most about moving here again?

Carla Eckhardt: California is home. I love the vibe there. I mean it! There seems to be an acceptance of multiculturalism and a pursuit of personal evolution that is hard to find in other places. I am struck by how beautiful it is there and look forward to showing my kids the place where they were born. Neither of them really remembers living in Berkeley before, but they can both spot a good sourdough so it must be in their blood. I look forward to coming—and staying—home.