Leading an already data-driven city to the next level January 26, 2023

Leading an already data-driven city to the next level

January 26, 2023

Title: Undersecretary of Evidence-Based Public Policy

City: Buenos Aires

Melisa Breda leads a roughly 50-person team in Buenos Aires city government tasked with getting the best available data into the hands of decision makers. “Data is one of the most valuable assets cities have,” she says. “But it’s not inherently valuable. Data acquires value only when we use it to improve the lives of residents.”

One example of this in action is an award-winning platform Breda and her team built, called “3D City.” Essentially, it translates the complex data underlying the city’s zoning code into easy-to-understand visualizations. Landowners or developers can use the tool to see what they’re allowed to build on any parcel of land. And residents can use it to better understand what kind of construction is allowed in their neighborhoods. It’s also helped to cut a week off the typical time it takes the city to approve construction projects.

Other projects Breda leads are focused on building the municipality’s internal data capabilities. For example, through the Bloomberg Philanthropies City Data Alliance, she and her colleagues are working on taking the city’s already robust performance management system to the next level. That means getting the mayor and his leadership team the fastest and most accurate updates possible on how city services are performing.

Breda, an economist with 10 years of service in city government, says the effort to build a data-driven organization has been underway for a long time in Buenos Aires—and she expects it to only deepen over time. “Becoming a data-driven organization is a process, not a destination,” she says. “This transformation didn’t begin with our arrival. And it will be continued by those who come after us.”

Pro tip: “It used to be that leaders provided tools to their teams and told them exactly what to do. Today, leaders must give their teams the skills they need to build their own tools.”