Search for Common Ground 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.Our mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches, toward cooperative solutions.

our vision is of a world where:Differences stimulate social progress, rather than precipitate violence. Respect for and cooperation with those we disagree with is considered the norm for individuals, communities, organizations, and nations.

Our work in Nigeria

Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, faces several different conflicts, including an insurgency in the North East, ongoing ethnic and religious violence in the country’s Middle Belt, and threatening militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta. We have been working in Nigeria since 2004, using innovative approaches to promote peacebuilding in areas of tension and to encourage understanding across ethnic, religious, and gender lines. With offices in Abuja, Jos, Maiduguri, and Port Harcourt, we are working to address conflict, utilizing consensus-based advocacy training, conflict resolution training, human rights monitoring and reporting, and the facilitation of dialogue processes that engage all levels of society.

Building Consensus on Protection of Holy Sites in Northern Nigeria

The religious divide has become a major threat-and often intermingled between ethnic, political and socio-economic lines. In the context of widespread dissatisfaction with living conditions, economic opportunities, and the quality of local governance, interreligious tensions have become a vector for fears and frustrations in Nigeria’s northern region.

Building Resilience & Supporting Youth Network in Countering Violent Extremism

In recent years, vulnerable youth and children, including a growing number of young girls have been used to carry out attacks in North East Nigeria, where the Boko Haram insurgency is rife. Religious & socio-economic factors make young people vulnerable & more susceptible to joining radical groups and further fueling the violence.