SOURCE: Search for Common Ground

Search for Common Ground

February 05, 2014 10:29 ET

Search for Common Ground Announces Leadership Transition

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

WASHINGTON, DC and BRUSSELS, BELGIUM--(Marketwired - Feb 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

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

Contact Information

  • Contact:

    For Search for Common Ground:
    Jessica Murrey
    +1 (202) 265-4300