San Diego Business Journal

With a newly-elected mayor for the City of San Diego came the appointment of Kirby Brady as the city’s first Chief Innovation Officer (CIO). At the helm of the Performance and Analytics department, Brady is finding new ways to harness data and technology to create a more equitable community.

“Our team is really focused on taking the data that either we’re producing, by way of all the services that we provide, kind of transactional data, and also combining that with other datasets and really trying to provide additional insight, doing analysis and making this data, useful for us to inform operations and ultimately make the city function better,” Brady said.

Brady assumes a dual title of CIO and director of Performance and Analytics where she leads a small-but-mighty team of 15 people who interface with multiple facets of the city government. Mayor Todd Gloria touted Brady’s passion for civic innovation and her experience as a key to her being the city’s first CIO.

“I couldn’t be prouder to have Kirby Brady as San Diego’s first chief innovation officer,” Gloria said. “Kirby’s unique experiences coupled with her creativity, drive and passion for civic innovation are going to help our City harness the data and technology we need to stretch taxpayer dollars while providing world-class service for people in every neighborhood.”

Defining Innovation

While more major American cities and companies adopt the role of CIO’s into their structure, it starts with defining what “innovation” means for different industries or cities based on its resources. Brady said that innovation for the City of San Diego mainly tackles two things.

“It’s really empowering our elected officials, really empowering our leadership at the city to make better decisions, through and with the use of data,” Brady explained. “And the second piece of that I think is I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we’re facing a pretty concerning and serious budget shortfall as a result of some of the fallouts in the pandemic.”

With this in mind, Brady is optimistic that San Diego can come out better than before the pandemic as she is focused on finding ways to ensure that no citizen is left behind by making sure underserved areas in the community are not overlooked.

“I think we understand that we are stronger when we are all really succeeding and achieving our economic potential,” Brady said.

Working Toward Equity

One example of how her team does this is by combining publicly available data such as demographics and layering that with data gathered through city services such as the Get It Done app where citizens can report infrastructure issues in their neighborhood. This gives the city a better idea of how different communities and citizens face different issues.

Another instance is how her team analyzed library donations and made sure these resources were distributed equitably throughout the city.

As a kid, Brady wanted to be a paleontologist when she grew up. Although she’s not professionally studying fossils, she found a passion during school for human geography and how people engage with their environment. Now, you could say she studies the “living breathing organism” of the city as the head of the Performance and Analytics department.

She started as director of this department about a year ago, after serving four years as the director of Research for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and a little over six years at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) as a research analyst.

Along with creating this new position in city hall, it shifts the governance structure so Brady’s team informs not only the city’s chief operations officer, but the mayor’s office as well to help inform policy through data analysis.

“Kirby and her team have already proven to be invaluable as we take a data-driven approach to navigating a challenging budget season and exploring ways to increase employee engagement,” Gloria said. “Kirby’s deep understanding of the city’s robust datasets and strong relationships throughout the organization are going to help us serve the public more effectively and make government more accessible for all of us.”

Going forward Brady and her team also hope to leverage the tech community in San Diego and work with local groups to find the most innovative solutions for San Diego’s citizens.