Nicola Forster

Ashoka Fellow
Genève, Switzerland, Europe
Fellow Since 2016



In Switzerland and beyond, the knowledge and innovative ideas of skilled young citizens find little access to political decision-making. This creates a significant discrepancy between political decisions and the desires and ideas of young citizens. Nicola responds to this problem by developing foraus, a unique grassroots “think and do-tank” that crowd sources ideas for political change from young citizens. By doing so, he is supplying the political system with fresh, innovative ideas. He is combating the political apathy of young people by turning
them into changemakers of traditional political systems. That way, he changes how young people are perceived by society and political decision makers: They are seen as experts on serious subjects and are empowered to impact political-decision making processes.


To date, foraus has attracted 1000 members into its organization, touching all 9 university cities across the country (comparable to the size of a medium-sized political party in Switzerland). foraus has successfully expanded to Liechtenstein, Belgium and Germany, and there is already interest for the model in Russia and Africa.


From a young age, Nicola was disinterested in his studies and struggled with traditional power structures. During his law studies, he dedicated his time to everything other than studying. A catalyzing moment for Nicola, and the inspiration for foraus, was when he successfully led the National youth
campaign to extend the free movement of people to the eastern parts of Europe. Nicola was chosen as one of the “99 Foreign Policy Leaders under 33” (The Diplomatic Courier and young Professionals in Foreign Policy).

Related TopicsChildren & Youth, Youth development, Civic Engagement, Citizen / community participation, Social Entrepreneurship


This profile was prepared when Nicola Forster was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
In Switzerland and beyond, global challenges are accelerating and politics is increasingly overstrained with the complexity and the amount of problems to deal with. At the same time, the knowledge and innovative ideas of thousands of skilled young citizens find little access to political decision-making. They do not want to get involved into politics via party politics, since none of them is representing their political views or opinions. Young citizens want to engage around topics which seem interesting and important to them. Nicola responds to this by turning problems into opportunities: He founded “foraus” as a citizen- led (youth) movement that brings together young people from a variety of fields that work together on political topics which are important for them. foraus is organized in a research and a mobilization arm. With the research arm, foraus – or rather its members – produce high-quality papers that are of vital interest to them and their governments and have a huge impact on politics. With the mobilization arm, foraus and its spin-off Operation Libero organize around elections and votations, where they organize campaigns to mobilise and inform citizens and turn-around votes.
This idea of turning around the traditional concept of a political think tank (hierarchical, closed and top down) and turning political lobbying into a grass-roots and open-source process that involves young citizens is completely new. By doing so, he did not only find a way to supply the political system with new and innovative ideas, but he is also turning young people into political changemakers.
Nicola started to test the idea of “foraus” beyond Switzerland, beyond young people and beyond the state decision-making process and all successfully. “foraus” successfully expanded to Liechtenstein, Belgium (scaling of foraus) and Germany (copying). And his travels to Russia, Africa and elsewhere confirmed his view that young people everywhere are interested in a think and do thank such as foraus. Nicola tested the essence of “foraus”, which is the bottom-up crowdsourcing of political ideas of non-political experts, with surgeons at the Foreign Ministry of Germany and it was very well-received and successful. Nicola is in the process of testing the crowd-sourcing and bottom-up ideas of citizens on the decision-making process of supranational organisations.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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