Search for Common Ground
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|Motto||Understanding Differences, Acting on Commonalities|
|Formation||March 25, 1982|
|Type||international non-profit organization|
|Headquarters||Washington, D.C., United States, and Brussels, Belgium|
|Approximately 600 employees and 100 consultants and interns.|
|Mission||To transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches, toward cooperative solutions.|
Search for Common Ground (or SFCG) is an international non-profit organization operating in 36 countries whose mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict away from adversarial approaches toward cooperative solutions. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and Brussels, Belgium, with the majority of its 600 employees based in field offices around the world including in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Search brought together numerous conflicting groups to find ways to peacefully resolve issues using independent media programming, track II diplomacy, and traditional peace building tactics. John Marks, Search's founder and former president, received an award in 2006 from the Skoll Foundation for social entrepreneurship. In 2008, Search for Common Ground was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Award for Public Diplomacy by the United States Department of State.
Shamil Idriss became President and CEO in September 2014. Prior to taking on his role with Search, Shamil was the CEO for Soliya, and 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 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.
Search was founded in 1982 by John Marks, a former State Department diplomat. He knew that conflict turns into violence when people focus on their differences rather than on their commonalities, and wanted a new way of connecting people across these differences. When Search was founded, it focused on facilitating cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The first project Search worked on was facilitating a U.S.‑Soviet task force on Lebanon. This task force developed a concept of a multilateral, regional approach to peace in the Middle East. Their idea was to bring together different ethnicities to create peace. This plan was later adopted, through Search's help with negotiations, to end the Israeli-Jordanian war. Since its founding, the organization has expanded its work to 30 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe. Search’s first office in the Middle East was established in 1991. The organization started working in Europe in 1994, in Africa in 1995, and in Asia in 2002. It employs around 600 staff who represent more than 40 nationalities.
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Search has over 600 staff operating in 36 countries around the world. The staff represents more than 40 nationalities. Search works in:
- Africa - Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe
- Asia - Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste (East Timor)
- Europe - Belgium, Macedonia, United Kingdom
- Middle East/Arab World - Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen
- Others - United States
To achieve its mission, Search manages projects that use innovative tools and work at different levels of society to promote cooperation and non-adversarial solutions to problems. Its “toolbox” includes media production – radio, TV, film, and print – as well as mediation and facilitation, training, community organizing, sports, drama, and music. Search works in "peace media" focused on building ties between different groups. Their media programs span four continents and Search offers tools for the expansion of programs such as theirs. By focusing mostly on radio and television, they break down many of the traditional literacy barriers of print media.
Common Ground Productions
An internal arm of Search is Common Ground Productions, or CG Productions. This arm is responsible for the media production of Search, including radio, television, and internet programming. Programming includes
Common Ground Productions helped create Burundi's independent radio studio, Studio Ijambo, in 1995, after fears that the Rwandan genocide of 1994 would spread to neighboring countries. A 2000 poll of listeners found that 82% of people in Burundi thought that Studio Ijambo "helped reconciliation a lot". The studio employs an ethically mixed staff of Hutus and Tutsis, who present an ethnically united front to an otherwise divided country. Studio Ijambo has been credited with playing a key role in decentralizing the media in Burundi and building local capacity for news coverage.
- Radio soap operas
Next to the BBC, Search is the largest producer of radio soap operas in the world, and in countries like Sierra Leone – which recently emerged from a civil war - its programming is listened to by over 90% of the population that has access to a radio. The radio was the most important form of mass communication after the civil war in Sierra Leone because there were three functioning radio stations in the country.
- The Talking Drum Studios
The radio studios in Sierra Leone and Liberia not only promote peace, but also HIV/AIDS prevention. TDS-Liberia has released several public service announcements, created billboards and handed out T‑shirts and condoms at events. They also provide children and youth with platforms for expression, through programs such as Sisi Lorpu and Golden Kids News.
Programming for CG Productions include:
- Africa: The Search For Common Ground
It was produced in the late 1990s as a 13‑part series on the conflicts and struggles facing the African continent. It specifically highlights issues in 16 countries. The series, co‑produced by Ubuntu TV and Film Productions/Media Peace Centre and the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC), was broadcast by TV and radio in English, French and Portuguese. The series has been broadcast in 22 countries in 40 local dialects, as well as the three languages it was produced in.
- "The President" (Jerusalem)
In Jerusalem, Search for Common Ground and Ma'an Network produced a new reality television program called The President, designed to promote democratic values and political engagement among Palestinian youth. Aired in 2013, the first season of The President challenged young Palestinians to win votes and become the new, mock Palestinian “Youth President.” Twenty-four contestants were filmed reacting to everything from a staged assassination attempt to an impromptu press conference. They debated a range of political and social issues regarding a future Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. Eight finalists became CEO for a day at major companies including Coca-Cola and Jibrini Dairy. The show’s challenges expanded internationally when the four finalists became Palestinian Ambassadors to Russia, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt. With a live audience in primetime, the show ended with the first ever televised Palestinian political debate between the two finalists moderated by a seasoned journalist. After, viewers picked up their mobiles and elected their new mock president via SMS. Approximately 170,000 SMS messages were calculated to “elect” the winner. Search’s evaluations indicate that approximately 1 million Palestinian households watched the first season. Season 2 generated an even larger following.
- Nashe Maalo (Macedonia)
In Macedonia, a joint effort between the producers of Sesame Street and CG Productions produced a children's show called Nashe Maalo (translation: Our Neighborhood). The show aired in the early 2000s, and it promoted mutual tolerance and respect between the different ethnic and religious groups in Macedonia.
- "Pahunch" (Nepal) 
Pahunch is a reality show by Search for Common Ground Nepal, aired from September to December 2016. The goal of the show is to increase mutual trust between the Nepali police and local communities. The reality show features eight contestants from all walks of life who, with the mentorship of Nepali police officers, solve fictional cases of homicide, burglary, domestic violence, human trafficking, and more, raising awareness of the daily challenges faced by law enforcement. Season 2 of Pahunch is currently in production.
- "Madam President" (Middle East Region)
Madam President is a 13-episode drama, which started airing across the Middle East and North Africa in November 2015. It is now available on Fcebook and Amazon Video. It tells the story of Noura Sa’ad, a politician from the fictional country of Jabalein, played by Lebanese star Carmen Lebbos. The drama showcases examples of female leadership and encourages political participation by women and youth.
- "Madam Prime Minister" (Nepal) 
Madam Prime Minister (Singha Durbar, “The Lion’s Palace”, in Nepali) is a 13-episode drama show which debuted in November, 2015. The show tells the story of Aasha Singh, the fictional first female Prime Minister of Nepal, played by Nepali star Gauri Malla. Over the course of 13 episodes, Madam Prime Minister showcased examples of female leadership, positive gender roles, and democratic values. The show was funded by USAID and created by Search For Common Ground – Nepal, along with production partner Mila Productions.
The Team TV series
An ongoing project of CG Productions is The Team (L'Equipe). Using the popularity of football (called soccer in America), the show uses sports as a metaphor to unification while addressing local, deep-rooted conflict. The show follows specific characters on a football team who must learn to work together to overcome their differences and win the game. The show is specifically tailored to the country in which it airs. Each country has different issues it faces, and the scripts represent these differences. The cast, writers and production crews are, whenever possible, all indigenous to the country. In the DRC, The Team deals specifically with women's rights.
In many countries in Africa, Search has introduced mobile cinema. These programs bring CG Production works into rural villages and expose more people to topics and discussion. In the DRC, Search has introduced mobile cinema dealing specifically with women's rights. Women in the DRC have been the victims of a brutal sexual assault war that has increased in intensity over the last few years.
According to UN estimates, close to "3,500 females were raped by soldiers, militiamen, and civilians during the first six months" of 2009, compared to 4,800 rapes for the whole of 2008. Search used Mobile Cinema in places like Kenya as a tool to broadcast The Team to a large audience who would otherwise not be exposed to it.
Members of the organization have worked for years to transform philanthropic decision-making processes by facilitating dialog between grant-makers and grantees. The process led to a youth program that bridges communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship. It also inspired a series of meetings at the United Nations on the idea of young philanthropy, and the Nexus Global Youth Summit.
Partners in Humanity
The Partners in Humanity (PiH) program aims to allay feelings of fear and suspicion based on perceived and real injustices, stereotypes, and inequalities.The mission of Partners in Humanity is to change the way individuals thank and feel about the issues, stereotypes and tensions that face Muslim-Western relations, which in turn will facilitate action.
The program started in 2003 at a meeting of over 60 international NGOs, media professionals, governmental agencies and international organizations. The meeting was held in Jordan, and was hosted by Search and His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal.
In addition to working with Search offices in the United States, Rabat, Jakarta, and Jerusalem, Partners in Humanity works with international organizations, including the World Economic Forum Council of 100, The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Soliya – The Connect Program, and The Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. PiH news
This program is supported by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The National Endowment for Democracy, His Royal Highness Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, Kingdom Holdings, the United States Institute of Peace, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Compton Foundation and individual donors.
Children and Youth programs
Search's Children and Youth programs work directly with children in 26 programs in 14 countries aiming to transform children's roles in conflict into alternatives to violence.
The United Nations recognizes that over 2 million children have been killed during war, 6 million children have been permanently disabled and over 250,000 child soldiers are still serving as soldiers, despite plans to release child soldiers in countries such as Burundi, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The programs of Search Youth and Children include radio programming in all countries, news and journalism programs, mentoring programs between young girls and older women, Youth Parliaments, training youth as leaders in nonviolent projects, offering bilingual kindergartens to foster communication, training children and youth in nonviolent conflict resolution, and engaging youth in governmental creation.
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