Building Bridges and Catalyzing Change: Ciara Garcia Named SVPI’s New CEO

SVPI 04/17/2024

Ciara Garcia is a force for equity who centers the wisdom of those closest to injustice in her life’s work. As the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of SVP International (SVPI), Ciara will bring this community-driven approach to philanthropy on a global scale.

Paul Shoemaker, the Founder of SVP International, is thrilled about Garcia’s appointment. 

“SVPI is doing deep internal work around what our global network is best positioned to do and where we can collectively make the most impact,” he says. “Ciara is coming to us from SVP Tucson, where she’s done amazing work as their CEO. She’s got an incredible depth of experience in the field, successfully growing an affiliate and creating a range of relationships across the network. We’re so lucky to have her.”

“The opportunity to strengthen SVPI’s worldwide impact is both humbling and inspiring,” says Garcia. “I’ve witnessed how channeling resources and trust into communities can empower generational change. Our entire international movement has this potential.”

For Garcia, this mission is deeply personal. Growing up in Tucson, she experienced stark socioeconomic contrasts. Her immediate family relied on social services and experienced housing insecurity. In contrast, her grandparents’ wealth and privilege afforded them opportunities many others lacked. These dueling realities inspired her lifelong passion for breaking cycles of injustice. 

“My background has made me comfortable in both spaces,” she says. “I want to continue to bridge the gaps between these spaces, between funders and nonprofits, and help people walk across those bridges.”

A tireless champion for families, Garcia began working with Tu Nidito Children and Family Services in 2005. The organization “supports children and families who are dealing with some of the hardest times imaginable: bereavement.” Hired as a development director, Garcia worked with Tu Nidito for 11 years. By the time she left, she was COO. “Everything was about ensuring that children and families in need have access to services and support,” she says. “It was some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever done.”

This community-centered approach has been a guiding star in Garcia’s work.

“One of the driving points of my career is getting back to the people that this work is meant to impact and asking them what they need and how they need it,” she notes. “Only once we truly understand those factors can we design services, programs, and systems that will actually help. The same is true for SVP affiliates, especially when we think about proper resourcing and positioning to unlock their potential.”

Garcia’s personal and professional experiences, coupled with a fellowship at the Aspen Institute, have solidified her expertise in promoting mutually accountable partnerships and fueled her passion for building a more just world where all people can thrive. “I’ve witnessed how collaborative, community-led philanthropy can transform lives,” she says. “I’m honored to help SVP affiliates unlock their fullest potential for catalyzing holistic, interconnected change from local to global levels.”

In her most recent position as CEO of SVP Tucson, Garcia transformed the affiliate’s impact by centering a community-led model. Under her leadership, the affiliate’s budget quadrupled, allowing it to expand its full-time staff and partnerships with local nonprofits and deepen its impact in the community. A key contributor to this growth was Garcia’s dedication to an innovative “2Gen” model, which aligns services like workforce development, childcare, and social support to holistically empower whole families across generations.

“SVP Tucson wrestled with big questions about our identity as an organization. We intentionally chose not to be a philanthropy club. We chose to be an impact hub, a community that comes together to learn, grow, connect, and create change,” Garcia says. “And that’s the work I’m most proud of.”

When looking for a new CEO, the SVPI board went first to their own affiliates.

“It’s really essential to use transformative opportunities to elevate community voices,” says Dr. Adriana Loson-Ceballos, Co-chair of the SVPI board. “We reached out to our stakeholders, listened to their input, crafted the job description, and realized we already had the perfect candidate within our own network: Ciara Garcia.”

Garcia comes to her new role as SVPI’s CEO after almost six years on the organization’s board of directors. She envisions facilitating deep connections at all levels of SVPI’s work – between the organization and affiliates, affiliates and their local communities, and spanning the entire global network. Key priorities include:

  • Relationship building – Nurturing relationships with affiliates and funders through shared values and deepened relationships;
  • Affiliate support – Tailoring support based on affiliates’ unique stages, from new groups to renowned thought leaders;
  • Connecting local to global – Empowering affiliates to bridge the local-global divide through peer learning across SVPI’s worldwide movement; and
  • Resourcing – Providing communities with the partnership and philanthropic capital needed to open equitable opportunities.

“I know the power we can wield when we have a strong network,” Garcia notes. “All SVP affiliates deserve a strong network that provides the resources and relationships that allow our work to reach its fullest potential. That’s what I want—to work with SVPI’s board, staff, and affiliates to build our vision together.” 

“Ciara is very self-aware, which is what you want in a leader who needs to focus on building relationships with the community,” says Loson-Ceballos. “She’s a strategic thinker focused on creating meaningful, multi-generational impact, which is core to SVPI’s brand and value proposition.”

Garcia will officially transition into the CEO role in July 2024. You can send her congratulatory messages here and read the press release announcement here.

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