Search for Common Ground (SFCG)
Founded in 1982, Search for Common Ground (SFCG) began at the height of the Cold War with only a handful of employees, a minuscule budget, and a huge mission: to transform the way the world deals with conflict.
Their founder, John Marks, realized that changing the world by tearing down the old system left us in shambles. So, he started building a new one. Instead of approaching conflict from a win-lose perspective, John founded Search for Common Ground to introduce a new concept: they all ‘win’ when the focus is on what they want to achieve—not what divides them.
The Cold War ended, but they kept going. In 1994, Susan Collin Marks joined John as his wife and Search’s Vice President. Under their leadership they grew and diversified, spreading across four continents and more than 30 countries.
John and Susan raised up a new generation of leaders across the world, leaders who saw firsthand how practical and possible peace is. With Shamil Idriss at the helm, they embarked on a new era of conflict transformation in 2014. Using everything from traditional diplomacy and mediation to video games and virtual exchange, they work one step at a time to change the nature of conflict – from a destructive force to a constructive one.
End violent conflict. It’s their purpose — their call to action.
Instead of tearing down an existing world, they focus on constructing a new one. They do this through a type of peacebuilding called conflict transformation. Meaning: they look to change the everyday interactions between groups of people in conflict, so they can work together to build up their community, choosing joint problem-solving over violence.
Their mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches, toward cooperative solutions.
Their ability to deal with conflict affects how they handle every issue humanity is facing. Whether global in nature, such as poverty, hunger or the environment, or closer to home, such as family or community relations, they face daily challenges to their abilities to deal with conflict constructively.
So, their vision is of a world where:
- Differences stimulate social progress, rather than precipitate violence.
- Respect for and cooperation with those they disagree with is considered the norm for individuals, communities, organizations, and nations.
Through decades transforming conflicts from destructive to constructive, they’ve learned some lessons along the way.
- Conflict is normal and resolvable
- Common Ground is not compromise
- Conflict can be transformed
- Peace is a process
- Humankind is interdependent
WHAT THEY DO
Conflict and differences are inevitable. Violence is not.
They partner with people around the world to ignite shared solutions to destructive conflicts.
They work at all levels of society to build sustainable peace through three main avenues: Dialogue+, Media+, and Community+.
Whether at the local or national level, they bring people together across dividing lines to discover and achieve shared goals. They work with those traditionally in power and those without a platform, often women and youth.
While a dialogue affects dozens, media impacts millions. They use media to stir up thoughts and discussions across a whole society about the root causes of violence and how to overcome differences.
They provide a safe space for people to work out their conflicts at the local level. With some creative thinking, they bring divided communities, neighbors, and families together to discover their common humanity.