Our Story

Our Story

We 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.

Our 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: we all ‘win’ when the focus is on what we want to achieve—not what divides us.

The Cold War ended, but we kept going. In 1994, Susan Collin Marks joined John as his wife and Search’s Vice President. Under their leadership we 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, we embarked on a new era of conflict transformation in 2014. Using everything from traditional diplomacy and mediation to video games and virtual exchange, we work one step at a time to change the nature of conflict – from a destructive force to a constructive one.

Important Dates



John Marks knew that violent conflict happens when people focus on their differences rather than on their commonalities. Our first headquarters was established in Washington, DC. Read a letter from our Founder, John D. Marks.


Common Ground Productions Launched

Common Ground Productions, our media production division, reaches millions of people worldwide, through films, reality TV, music videos, video games, comic books, and more.


1st Country Program Established, in the Middle East

We began working in Jerusalem on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Click here to see where we work.


1st Centers of Operation in Europe Established

We launched teams in Macedonia and Ukraine.


Brussels Office Opened; 1st Office in Africa Established

We began our country program in Burundi out of headquarters in capital Bujumbura.


Common Ground News Service Launched

For more than 10 years, Common Ground News focused on building bridges between the Muslim world and Western society, presenting constructive solutions and dispelling the misunderstandings that so often cause conflict.


10th Country Program Established

We launched teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Morocco in 2001. The DR Congo is now our largest country program with multiple offices and almost 100 staff.


1st Country Program in Asia Established

We established our program in Indonesia out of the capital, Jakarta.


The Team Premiers in Its First Country

Combining the worldwide appeal of football with the ability to transform social attitudes, The Team is a TV drama centered around the lives and conflicts of the diverse members of a football team. The Team was a model for future shows and has aired or is currently on air in 18 countries.


20th Country Program Established

We launched teams in Pakistan, Timor-Leste, Yemen, and Zimbabwe in 2010.


30th Country Program Established

We set up shop in Chad, Kyrgyzstan, and Niger in 2012.


Leadership Transition Announced

New President Shamil Idriss joins Search for Common Ground on September 1, 2014.