• Awarded: 2006
  • Issue Areas: Human Rights · Peace · Peace and Human Rights
  • Region: Central and Southern Asia · Eastern and Southern Africa · Eastern Asia · Europe · Middle East and North Africa · North America · Southeast Asia · West and Central Africa
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    Founded in 1982, Search for Common Ground works to transform the way the world deals with conflict – away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving. They work with local partners to find culturally appropriate means to strengthen societies’ capacity to deal with conflicts constructively: to understand the differences and act on the commonalities.

    They have developed a broad array of operational methods. These include well-known conflict resolution techniques, such as mediation and facilitation, and less traditional ones, like TV productions, radio soap operas, and community organizing.

    Search for Common Ground works at all levels of society to build sustainable peace through three main avenues: dialogue, media, and community. They bring people together across dividing lines to discover and achieve shared goals; use media to stir up discussion about the root causes of violence and how to overcome differences; and provide a safe space for people to work out their conflicts at the local level.

    Worldwide, tens of millions of people are caught up in violent conflict.

    SFCG works across societies with conflict resolution techniques and less traditional methods -- community organizing, TV and radio soap opera, sports.

    John and Susan Collin Marks have developed a diverse toolkit based on understanding differences and acting on commonalities.

    SFCG is working toward long-term resolution of conflicts in 30 countries.

    Ambition for Change

    Countries around the world recognize that while conflict is inevitable, violence is not, and take constructive steps to achieve inter-ethnic harmony.

    Path to Scale

    Build Media Audiences

    In parallel with broader and deeper involvement in more countries, SFCG seeks to achieve learning and attitude change at a global scale through its media programs.

    Business Model

    Programs supported by development aid and philanthropic contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

    John Marks founded Search for Common Ground (SFCG) at the height of the Cold War to build bridges between East and West. Operating from the basic belief that the world is running out of space, resources, and recuperative capacity to deal with wasteful conflict, he has built SFCG into the largest nonprofit organization in the world working to defuse, prevent and transform conflict. Before joining her husband as Senior Vice President of SFCG, Susan Collin Marks served as a peacemaker during South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, mediating bloody clashes, and helping formulate national policy on community policing. SFCG works across whole societies with conflict resolution techniques such as mediation, facilitation and back-channel dialogue; and through less traditional methods including community organizing, TV and radio soap opera, music-video, and sports. At the time of the Award, SFCG had established multi-pronged conflict resolution programs in Angola, Burundi, Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and was poised to bring its media program to global scale. In 2014, John and Susan transitioned into new roles in the organization. Shamil Idriss, who formerly served as chief operating officer of SFCG, became its CEO.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Currently working in 30 countries, with four out of five staff recruited locally from the countries they serve.
    • The Team, a TV/radio soap opera that promotes win-win ways of solving problems, became the third-most-watched television program in Kenya. Adapted to address local conflicts and then broadcast in other countries, it won several major film awards.
    • Génération Grands Lacs, a multilingual radio show broadcast in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, reaches tens of thousands of listeners in the region.
    • A leadership program co-presented with Outward Bound for Israeli and Palestinian social entrepreneurs intended to develop the core of a Palestinian-Israeli network for positive social change has been expanded to include young political and religious leaders.


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