SFCG Announces Leadership Transition

Search for Common Ground Announces Leadership Transition

Shamil Idriss Named President as John Marks and Susan Collin Marks Take On New Roles

 

Washington, DC, USA, and Brussels, Belgium, February 5, 2014 – Search for Common Ground (or “Search”), the peacebuilding organization with operations in 33 countries across four continents, today announced that its founder and President John Marks and its Senior Vice President Susan Collin Marks have decided to transition to new roles within Search, and that Shamil Idriss will become President, effective September 1, 2014. 

Mr. Idriss, 41, has served for the past four years as the Chief Executive Officer of Soliya, an organization that has pioneered the use of new media in cross-cultural dialogue and education, and has helped to establish the field of virtual exchange.  Before Soliya, among other positions, Shamil had worked at Search for 13 years, most recently as its Chief Operating Officer.  He also served as a member of Search’s Board of Directors for the past 10 years.

John Marks and Susan Collin Marks will continue to serve in their current positions until September, at which time John’s title will be Founder, Search for Common Ground and President, Common Ground Productions.  Susan will become Senior Advisor of Search for Common Ground.  Having voluntarily decided to step down from Search’s Executive Team, both John and Susan will serve as advisors to Shamil and the Executive Team.  John, who also decided to step down from the Board, will continue to take a leading role in the organization’s media production.  Tom Manley will continue to serve as Search’s non-executive Chairman of the Board. 

Separately, Search and Soliya announced that Soliya is in the process of joining Search for Common Ground under Shamil’s leadership to work as one unified team advancing their shared mission (see https://www.sfcg.org/search-for-common-ground-and-soliya-to-join-together/).

John Marks said, “This is a great moment for Search, happening at a strategic and auspicious moment in our history.  When I founded Search 32 years ago, we had a vision to change the way the world deals with conflict.  We believed that a group like Search could transform peacebuilding.  Today, we are a highly recognized, global organization with offices in 33 countries.  We have developed an ever-expanding tool-kit to advance societal conflict transformation, and a broad and diverse global community of talented leaders with practical experience all unified around the goal of ending violent conflict.  I’ve never felt better about the organization, its work and especially its people.  There is an extraordinary team ready to step up to the next level.”

He continued, “Shamil Idriss is the ideal person for this job.  To his very core, Shamil is committed to our shared mission, vision and values.  With his deep appreciation for – and long experience with – Search, he is the embodiment of the next generation of Search leaders.  Even more, with his experience as chief executive of an international non-profit organization he brings broad and deep expertise and networks.  I very much look forward to working with him in his new role.  Having initiated this transition process, Susan and I are gratified that it is helping Search build on our historic foundation of peacebuilding, and that it enjoys the active support of the Board of Directors and executive team.”

Shamil Idriss said, “I am eager to build on the foundation that John, Susan and the team at Search have laid.  Their legacy is extraordinary and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for their accomplishments.  John and Susan have been mentors, friends, and a source of inspiration to me.  I am committed to honoring their incredible service, and I am thrilled to work with them through this transition and into the future.  Among their greatest legacies is the Search team – a global, diverse, courageous, and talented community that I am honored to join and eager to lead.”

Susan Collin Marks said, “Today marks the beginning of a wonderful celebration, the passing of the torch to a new generation of peacebuilders.  We celebrate John, who 32 years ago had the courage to follow his vision, the conviction to act boldly and the innovative spirit to transform his longing for a kinder and better world into the concrete reality of Search for Common Ground.  He is a profoundly wonderful man and a brilliant social entrepreneur, and for 20 years I have been blessed to work for Search with John as my partner.  Shamil too, has that goodness and strength, that courage and vision.  We know that Shamil is the right successor to John.  Search has always prided itself on looking to the next generation and today we celebrate the past as a prelude to even greater things in the future.  With deepest appreciation, John and I look forward to working with Shamil and the team in our new roles.”

Tom Manley said, “John Marks is a pioneer whose vision and leadership not only created Search, but helped establish and shape the peacebuilding field.  The work of John and Susan, who fostered Search’s growth and led Search into new areas, converted idealist notions separating the concepts of violence and conflict into actionable tools for change.  John and Susan have given Search and the world priceless gifts.  The Board of Directors offers its deepest gratitude to John and Susan for everything that they’ve done and looks forward to their continued work with Search in the years to come.  Knowing Shamil Idriss for many years and having planned for this transition over a period of years, the Board enthusiastically and unanimously supports Shamil’s appointment.  We could not imagine a better candidate to lead Search into our next stages.”

Prior to Soliya, in addition to his time at Search, Shamil served as Executive Director of the Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund which merged with Soliya in 2009.  In 2005, he was appointed by then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as Deputy Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations.  He has served on the Steering Committee of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and of the ASMA Society’s Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow.

About Search for Common Ground

Search for Common Ground works to prevent and end violent conflict in countries that are experiencing violence, facing the threat of it, or dealing with its after-effects.  Search has a 32-year track record of equipping individuals and societies with the knowledge and skills to find alternatives to violence.  By understanding and tackling the root causes of conflict, and by working with local partners in 33 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America, Search helps communities deal with their differences constructively.  Learn more at www.sfcg.org.

 

Contact:

For Search for Common Ground:
Jessica Murrey
+1 (202) 265-4300 or jmurrey@sfcg.org

Photo source: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Europe

Search for Common Ground and Soliya to Join Together

Groups to Work as One Team under Leadership of Shamil Idriss

 

Washington, DC, USA; Brussels, Belgium; and New York, USA; February 5, 2014 – Search for Common Ground (or “Search”), the peacebuilding organization with operations in 33 countries across four continents, and Soliya, an organization that has pioneered the use of new media in cross-cultural dialogue and education, today announced that Soliya is joining Search to work as one unified team advancing their shared mission.

Separately, Search announced that Shamil Idriss will become its President, effective September 1, 2014 (see: https://www.sfcg.org/search-for-common-ground-announces-leadership-transition/).  Mr. Idriss, 41, is currently the CEO of Soliya and also serves on the Search Board of Directors.  He previously worked for Search for 13 years, including as its COO.  Search Founder and President John Marks and Senior Vice President Susan Collin Marks have decided to transition to new roles within Search, effective September 1.  The full operational integration of Search and Soliya will be completed soon after regulatory approvals are obtained.

Going forward, operating under Search’s auspices, Soliya’s programs will retain the Soliya name.  Soliya will continue to implement virtual exchange programming and online training, and will seek to leverage Search’s global presence and substantial expertise to augment and scale up its programming.  The current Soliya team will continue to operate these programs.  Current Search employees will continue to operate Search programs.

“Today’s announcement represents many things.  It demonstrates our mutual determination for persistent and entrepreneurial innovation to drive the world’s cross-cultural peacebuilding. It reflects our commitment to cooperation and collaboration as the fundamental means of addressing the most vexing challenges of the 21st century.  It marshals the energy and potential of our two groups, and it signals the emergence of a new generation of leaders in peacebuilding.  By joining together, we will build on the founding visions of our two organizations to break new frontiers in new ways,” said John Marks, Susan Collin Marks, Shamil Idriss and Soliya Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Lucas Welch jointly.

The joint statement continued, “As a pioneer in the use of new media technologies to connect divided communities, Soliya seeks to significantly scale the reach and impact of its programs by drawing on Search’s global institutional base and leading expertise in the field of peacebuilding.  For its part, Soliya offers Search a scale-able means to advance its mission through innovative educational programming that further strengthens Search’s role in the ‘preventative’ side of conflict transformation – helping to educate and prepare younger generations to shift the way the world deals  with its differences.  Soliya’s programming is complementary to – and will further enrich – Search’s work.  It will add to Search’s toolkit innovative new interactive media work and virtual exchange programming, putting Search on the forefront of what will be a fast-growing sub-set of our field: the use of new and social media to transform conflict.

“We can’t think of a better team of peacebuilders than the men and women of Search and Soliya.  We have been privileged to work with these extraordinary people and can only imagine what we’ll all accomplish together.”

Shamil Idriss concluded, “I am thrilled that Soliya and Search will come together and am honored to be named as incoming President.  John and Susan’s passion for, and commitment to, peace and justice is an inspiration to me and so many peacebuilders of my generation.  They have built an incredible team at Search that I very much look forward to joining and leading and I am grateful that they too will remain part of that team for years to come. 

“And I extend a very special acknowledgement to Lucas Welch and Liza Chambers – co-founders of Soliya – for their outstanding vision and leadership in creating and building Soliya.   Together with Soliya’s Board, staff, and volunteers, they pioneered the use of new media technologies to enable virtual exchanges across cultures, moving us closer to a world in which every young person can have a meaningful cross-cultural experience as part of their education.  Soliya is a living legacy to Liza’s commitment to deep dialogue across difference and Lucas’ spirit of relentless innovation.  I am indebted to them both for entrusting me to lead Soliya in this direction to do even greater things in the years ahead as part of Search for Common Ground.”

About Search for Common Ground

Search for Common Ground works to prevent and end violent conflict in countries that are experiencing violence, facing the threat of it, or dealing with its after-effects.  Search has a 32-year track record of equipping individuals and societies with the knowledge and skills to find alternatives to violence.  By understanding and tackling the root causes of conflict, and by working with local partners in 33 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America, Search helps communities deal with their differences constructively.  Learn more at www.sfcg.org.

About Soliya

Founded in 2003, Soliya combines the power of dialogue with the reach of new media – connecting, inspiring and empowering the next generation of change agents to shift the way our societies relate, from confrontation to cooperation.  Through its flagship virtual exchange program – the Connect Program – and UN-certified Facilitation Training, Soliya has engaged thousands of students in 27 countries, supporting and training young leaders who are actively bridging divides across nations and within their local communities.  Soliya is a pioneer in the field of virtual exchange, which holds the promise of enabling every young person to have a meaningful cross cultural experience as part of their education.  Additional information is available at http://soliya.net.

 

Contacts:

For Search for Common Ground:
Jessica Murrey
+1 (202) 265-4300 or jmurrey@sfcg.org

For Soliya:
Waidehi Gokhale
+1 (267) 844-3842 or waidehi@soliya.net

Photo source: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Europe