Our story

Transforming the way the world deals with conflict since 1982

The Founding

We began our work in the USA 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 old systems 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. Under John and his wife Susan’s leadership we grew and diversified. In 1994, we opened the European Center for Common Ground at the heart of Europe. Our Belgium entity – later to be renamed “Search for Common Ground” – was key to enable our growth.

A New Era

By the end of the decade, we had country offices across four continents and by 2010, we had offices in more than 30 conflict-affected 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 CEO 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.

Our Journey


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


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


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


We launched teams in Macedonia and Ukraine


Establishment of the European Center for Common Ground ASBL (later renamed “Search for Common Ground”)


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


We received the nomination for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).


Decision to focus on the most consequential conflict geographies. We open Burkina Faso and Afghanistan operations, while we start the process of phasing out in 10 “legacy” countries


Preemptive Love’s rapid response capabilities and community development experience, paired with the established history and experience of Search, greatly expands the ability of both organizations to serve the communities with whom we work.

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