Susan Collin Marks is the Senior Vice President of Search for Common Ground (SFCG). In this interview with the European Journalism Centre, she describes some of the goals of SFCG and specific projects involving popular media to reach millions of people in war-torn countries.
The mission of Search for Common Ground, founded in 1982, is nothing less than shifting the world away from conflict to cooperative solutions. It now operates a series of global forums and media projects as well as seventeen field programs, mostly in African countries but also in Macedonia, Ukraine, Jerusalem, Nepal and Indonesia. These are all countries dealing with the effects of violent conflict as well as deep ethnic and political divisions.
SFCG emphasizes long term commitments in its projects and partners with local peace activists to achieve its goals. As noted in the video, one of the organization’s most distinctive strategies is to use popular media and culture to encourage cooperation and reconciliation. In the group’s own words:
Our methodology is rooted in a simple idea: Understand the differences and act on the commonalities. Within that framework, there are numerous delivery systems. We have developed these into a diverse toolbox that includes such traditional conflict resolution techniques as mediation, training, facilitation, and back channel negotiations and unconventional ones involving radio and TV production, music, sports, and community organizing. Because violent conflict depends on stereotyping, demonizing, and dehumanizing, we make extensive use of popular culture to help reverse this process. Thus, among other things, we produce soap operas that communicate win-win messages of mutual respect, tolerance, nonviolence, and problem-solving. We make music videos that have turned into theme songs for entire peace processes. In a dozen countries, we produce soap opera and reality TV – with good values. In addition, our toolbox includes street theater, sport, art, community organizing, and film festivals.
For further information, consult the Search for Common Ground website at www.sfcg.org.
The video is a production of the European Journalism Centre, is a nonprofit organization that provides news, resources and programs for mid-career training of journalists and media professionals. Its online magazine reviews journalistic standards and practice throughout Europe and internationally.