Issel Masses

Founder & Executive Director, Sembrando Sentido

My commitment to public service was first instilled in me by empowered women such as my grandmother, a pioneer in facilitating ground-up participatory efforts to help protect and

strengthen vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico. This commitment is what decades later inspired me to search for academic and professional opportunities including working at organizations such as the World Bank and Deloitte Consulting.

Through my work in these institutions, I developed expertise and passion around democracy and good governance reform at the local and international level. These experiences were also instrumental in teaching me the importance of knowing when to lead and when to follow/support, how to collaborate effectively and develop others, to be self-aware and practice solidarity, and manage challenging tasks successfully with strong organizational skills and perseverance. Moreover, this same path prepared me to lead governance and resiliency efforts at home and abroad.

In 2017, while supporting the response and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, I became painfully aware of how inefficiencies in public procurement hindered the government’s capacity to respond to emergencies, led to significant delays in reconstruction efforts, and limited equity in contracting and recovery processes. Weaknesses in public contracting alone costs Puerto Rico up to three billion dollars a year, resulting in low-quality, unreliable, and unnecessarily expensive essential services, from building up the power grid to rebuilding our roads.

Upon this realization, I decided to move back to Puerto Rico, and form part of the efforts that promote a promising and climate adaptive reconstruction process through the fair and equitable use of public resources. I founded Sembrando Sentido, a nonprofit organization that works to make government data truly open and building power in our communities to improve, monitor and safeguard the use of public resources, including in public contracting.