by Annie van Hees

We have been hearing about the inspirational John Marks and Susan Collin Marks since we arrived at IPSI a little over one week ago today. The brains, heart, and soul of Search for Common Ground, they certainly gave us hope and much to think about after today’s session. John Marks started the day with a captivating lecture on the 13 (roughly – he kept adding to the list as the day progressed) key aspects to SFCG and social entrepreneurship. Some of these were quite entertaining, such as the “Woody Allen Principle” as he called it, that being the argument that 80% of success is just showing up. Others seemed to be more specific to the work of social entrepreneurs – like the necessity to generate “Yes-able Propositions” in order to reach steps of success throughout an initiative. As the day continued to a broader discussion of the work and goals of SFCG and later included Susan Collin Marks, they frequently referred back to these principles.

The IPSI Symposium so far has been an exceptional combination of academic and theoretic lecture in combination with training and stories (successes and failures). We learn about these grand conceptual ideas that can be applied to most conflict and seem to be solutions to the problems that arise from violent conflict. As inspirational as some of these ideas may be, I have often caught myself asking what this looks like realistically. What does conflict prevention look like on the ground? What about facilitated dialogue between conflicting parties? As one of the younger participants here at IPSI with less experience than others, I sometimes find it difficult to imagine these situations in a pragmatic way.

For me, today helped me do just that. I still have multiple questions lingering in my head, but a lot was clarified today. The second half of the day composed of many short videos showing examples of SFCG initiatives on the ground in various locations. It is incredible what such a massive organization can do when they have the desire and means to do so. Today portrayed a lot of what we have learned so far into visual and substantial examples. Their use of propaganda and popular culture is innovative and beneficial. I was amazed throughout the day at the incredible passion for their cause that they both portrayed when telling stories as well as discussing theory. The love that they have for their work seems to be almost equal to the love they obviously have for each other.

“The only thing we can be sure of in life is change – we must be optimistic about it” – Susan Collin Marks