Kerstin Forsberg

Ashoka Fellow
Lima, Peru
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Kerstin Forsberg was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
The Pacific Ocean is one of Peru’s most valuable resources and has supported its major fishing industry for decades, but in recent years industrial exploitation combined with a general cultural disregard for the sea has left major strains on the ecosystem, threatening its income from fishing and endangering the sustainability and viability of its marine ecosystem. With Ocean Planet, Kirsten has developed a comprehensive community-based strategy to conserve, protect, and better take advantage of the marine and coastal environment for the benefit of all. Kirsten fundamentally seeks to sensitize and mobilize the community to become agents of change in their local marine and coastal environments. This inclusive, grassroots component is innovative and nurtures a sense of belonging and ownership over the marine area and the actual and potential resources that the ocean can offer. Kirsten teaches the community to study and produce the materials they need to create their own tactics in dealing with their environment, helping to enable the citizens themselves to be the guardians of the marine habitat and benefit from a less polluted and productive ocean.

Conscious of the numerous stakeholders and competing interests involved in the coastal regions, such as communities, private industry, public institutions, and the civil society, Kirsten forges “smart networks” among the actors. Through meetings, forums, and alliances, Kirsten creates consensus and dialogue between the partners that will benefit the interest of each one while also preserving the sustainability of their habitat. Schools and universities especially cooperate with Ocean Planet to promote the environmental curricula in local areas and to also contribute volunteers to the project. Kirsten is committed to treating each actor as a potential ally, rather than as the enemy: Many environmental COs have failed in their efforts by alienating the business sector, a crucial and influential stakeholder in the region. The community members take part in all of the collaborative initiatives that Kirsten convenes to share their ideas and also learn strategies to participate actively at the stakeholder table, as they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the program.

Ultimately, Kirsten has created a model that pursues sustainable and integral development of the coastal region. Currently she is piloting Ocean Planet in Tumbes, a small coastal municipality in northern Peru that is located in one of the five major oceanic biodiversity hotspots in the world. Through her association of the local, private, government, and citizen sectors, which work on commonly identified problems and build from one small success toward bigger success, Kirsten is creating unique methods to sustainably manage the marine resources. Because she empowers the communities to carry out their efforts by themselves rather than accompanying them step-by-step, she will be able to expand rapidly without over-committing herself. Furthermore, the physical nature of the ocean demands a nationwide and even regional strategy to address the various primary and secondary environmental challenges. Kirsten plans to use this prototype as an example of the positive cooperation that can emerge and then find other communities along the Peruvian coast that would benefit from the integral development model. Her existing contacts in Tumbes will also help multiply her network of partners that can work together in these locales until Kirsten has reached national impact. Eventually, she dreams of an Ocean Planet that can span the entire oceanic hotspot, including Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and the globe.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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