John Marks
In an increasingly polarized world, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to be split on issues. Although this may not be negative, such binarization certainly has the potential to breed conflict. Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is a non-governmental agency that seeks to prevent violence that results from differences. Here are ten facts about Search for Common Ground that provide a better understanding of what the organization does.

10 Facts about Search for Common Ground

  1. Search for Common Ground was founded by John Marks in 1982 in Washington D.C. His vision was to replace the dog-eat-dog mentality of the world with the premise that everyone is better off if we are all better off.
  2. SFCG is revolutionizing the way the world deals with conflicts. Through listening and cooperation, the company brings people together toward a common goal and away from conflict.
  3. They have 59 offices worldwide and work in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.
  4. Search for Common Ground is dedicated to upholding human rights. As a result, they served as a signatory for a delegation in Nigeria known as the Steering Committee of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative.
  5. SFCG has a great global outreach program, as 795 thousand individuals volunteer with SFCG every year.
  6. Search for Common Ground has global initiatives such as “The Team.” This is a television series where soccer players must overcome their ethnic, social, religious and racial differences and use diversity to work together. This has proved to be an effective method to reach viewers as Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League said, “football (soccer) is a remarkable tool which can break down barriers, foster understanding, and teach people valuable lessons on a wide range of social issues.”
  7. SFCG encourages cooperation in specific locations through dialogue, media and community work.
  8. SFCG has been successful in using dialogue to better relations. In one case, they transformed the reputation of police officers in the Terai region of Nepal through the Pahunch Project. This project invited Terai youth and police officers to play football and ask questions about one another. Notoriously there is tension among these groups, but afterward, one participant named Mamta said, “The football clinic has made my friends and me positive towards the police.” In fact, she even later decided to become an officer herself.
  9. SFCG created a video: L’Équipe to address gender-based violence. It revolves around the perspective of two African women soccer players that are victims of sexual violence. Despite their pain, the two women seek to better their situation and community. This is one of the many SFCG media tools that reaches 51 million people annually and provides encouragement for women to stand up against sexual violence.
  10. The Kpaika community within the Democratic Republic of Congo is a poor area that is prone to attacks from rebel groups. In response, SFCG organized the Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC) project. This project bettered communication within the community by establishing radio networks and emergency plans of action. As a result, the community has felt a lot safer and is more prepared for potential attacks.

Creating Change

These facts about Search for Common Ground do not encompass the entirety of the organization’s successes as a whole. To learn more about the organization or how to help, visit

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr


The United States began assisting foreign countries in 1961 with the establishment of USAID. So, if we have been fighting poverty for 54 years, why does it still exist?

In total, the United States gives $30 billion to the world’s poor. That number alone may sound like a lot but not when compared to the $663 billion going toward military spending.

Even so, with $30 billion going toward the fight to end global poverty, why do the problems of poor health and education, hunger and lack of adequate housing persist?

According to new studies, violence is the answer. In a Ted Talk given back in March of 2015, Gary Haugen discussed violence and how it is the hidden reason for why poverty exists to this day. He stated, “The truth is, the poor of our world are trapped in whole systems of violence.”

He went on to talk about how everyday violence must be controlled if our efforts at foreign assistance are ever going to work. “And so the epidemic of everyday violence, it just rages on,” he said. “And it devastates our efforts to try to help billions of people out of their two-dollar-a-day hell.”

An article written in 2011 in The Economist showed similar findings. The magazine reported that violence “is not just one cause of poverty among many: it is becoming the primary cause. Countries that are prey to violence are often trapped in it. Those that are not are escaping poverty.”

The good news is that with this knowledge we can see the way to a better future. Toward the end of Haugen’s talk, he showed areas where such improvements are already being processed.

“Recently, the Gates Foundation funded a project in the second largest city of the Philippines, where local advocates and local law enforcement were able to transform corrupt police and broken courts so drastically, that in just four short years, they were able to measurably reduce the commercial sexual violence against poor kids by 79 percent.”

Other such stories are out there. Guatemala has a program that was put into place to retrain officers in how to deal with violence issues. In El Salvador, Creative was started to help with violence.

“The program is creating municipal observatories, which will collect and corroborate crime and violence data, and developing municipal crime and Violence Prevention Committees that will create action plans in their communities.”

As programs target violence directly, efforts to decrease poverty will have a better chance of success.

Katherine Martin

Sources: Poverties, USAID, OECD, Defense, Global Issues, TED, Economist
Photo: Flickr