Giovanna Negretti is Giving Latinos a Stronger Voice in State Politics

March 4, 2008
Doug Gavel

Giovanna Negretti believes in the power of civic engagement because she has lived it. As a small child growing up on the small island of Vieques, and later as a young adult working as the first and only Latina legislative aide in the Massachusetts State Senate, Negretti learned how effective political mobilization can indeed move mountains and change lives.

A brief career detour in 2004-05 brought Negretti to Harvard Kennedy School, where she earned a Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree. Reenergized by the experience, Negretti then returned full time to ¿Oíste?, an organization she had founded in 2000 dedicated to advancing the political, social and economic standing of Latinos in the state. Through leadership development, civic education, and advocacy programs, ¿Oíste? trains potential political candidates at all levels. In just a few years, the organization has trained more than 200 Latinos to run for public office and work in campaigns.

“¿Oíste? provides Latinos with the necessary tools to fully and effectively participate in civic life at all levels,” Negretti said. “Its programs have helped Latinos and Latinas to critically and civically engage in the life of their communities and to change systems and structures that have historically barricaded their access to a healthy quality of life.”

Negretti has now launched ambitious expansion plans for ¿Oíste?, as she hopes to replicate the model in five other states. And the networks and friendships she developed while at the Kennedy School are proving invaluable in that effort.

“The Kennedy School is a place where you can debate ideas, define your purpose, discuss great ambitions, and find your voice. Each course I took had a tremendous impact on how I have decided to refocus my professional development while building a stronger, more effective organization,” she said.

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