Global Ties Detroit connects Metro Detroiters with communities worldwide.
Global Ties Detroit has one main mission in mind as the nonprofit organization strives to build lasting relationships between Metro Detroiters and international leaders worldwide: to promote global exchange and citizen diplomacy and, therefore, promote world peace.
The organization is part of the larger Global Ties U.S. network, a private sector nonprofit partner to the U.S. Department of State founded in 1961 by the Kennedy administration to encourage peace and prosperity. It’s an ongoing mission that Global Ties Detroit president Marian Reich likens to a “vehicle for better international understanding.”
“We call it ‘citizen diplomacy,’ meaning that you and I as regular people through our interactions with international leaders can build trust and improve understanding,” she explains.
Reich, who has worked with the Global Ties network for more than 20 years, began her career at the sister organization in Chicago before moving to Metro Detroit in 2011. Her role includes business development, bringing international delegations to Southeast Michigan and launching new projects to help connect Detroit to the rest of the world.
Now, Global Ties Detroit is also creating opportunities for Metro Detroiters to head overseas for outbound exchanges that help everyday citizens understand life and culture in other countries, while strengthening connections between those countries.
Reich, 55, of Royal Oak and a member of the Metro Detroit Jewish community, says these missions are more important than ever in a time of increased global conflict. Her studies in Slavic languages and previous work in resettling Russian-speaking Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union into Midwest communities has helped Global Ties Detroit create numerous exchange programs with Eastern European countries.
Global Ties Detroit, which hosts anywhere from 50-60 delegations per year, welcomed a six-member delegation from Latvia to explore the theme of inclusivity and tolerance from March 10-18. The delegation lived with volunteer host families in the Metro Detroit area while learning about the local community.
The Latvia delegation included a mix of journalists, cultural leaders, higher education experts and more who range in age from 23 to 51 and come from all areas of life. Each delegation member has a personal connection to inclusivity in their careers or volunteer work. “We really wanted to talk to them about what inclusivity means,” Reich says.
Several participants have disabilities. One individual is a wheelchair user, while another is blind. Others in the group work with at-risk youth. During their week-plus visit to Metro Detroit, the Latvia delegation met with organizations, businesses, nonprofits and government officials who work in the inclusivity space to discuss their ongoing work.
The agenda included visits to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Progressive Art Studio Collective, the Henry Ford Museum and Jewish agency Gesher Human Services, among others.
Participants built connections with their homestay host families or the volunteer families that offer to let delegates live with them during their time in Metro Detroit. Host families, like the delegates themselves, come from many different backgrounds, cultures and religions, and often include local Jewish participants.
Also in March, Global Ties Detroit welcomed a second delegation with 10 community leaders from 10 different countries in Europe. This group’s focus was on advancing minority rights and took place from March 9-12 in Metro Detroit.
Participating leaders hailed from Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey, Spain, Sweden and other countries and discussed ways to protect human rights of minority communities.
“They had a very diverse program,” Reich says. “They went to Fordson High School [in Dearborn], which I think was fascinating for them to see a school that has such a high percentage of Arab-American students.”
Other activities on the agenda included meeting with local LGBTQ, interfaith and minority rights leaders to understand work being done in Metro Detroit and beyond.
While inclusivity and minority rights are the center points of these two delegations, Global Ties Detroit’s work touches on all matters important to cultural and economic life. Other topics seen in these exchanges include entrepreneurship, innovation, civic engagement, immigration, economic development, education, public health and more.
The key program that Global Ties Detroit facilitates is called the International Visitor Leadership program, which has been active for 80 years through the U.S. Department of State. With this program, embassies and consulates select people who are influential or emerging leaders in their countries to participate and learn about American life.
“It could be journalists or religious leaders, community activists,” Reich explains. “They’ve done a really great job of picking people who are very influential.
“Potentially, you could have the next prime minister of a certain country,” she adds.
The State Department, Reich explains, keeps this program going to help international visitors understand who Americans are and what values define American culture.
“Even if we don’t agree all the time with another country’s actions, we still want to promote peace and understanding,” she says.
In addition to the International Visitor Leadership program, Global Ties Detroit facilitates numerous online and in-person programming that includes virtual training for youth in Belarus, fellowships for emerging leaders and exchanges for Pakistani educators, among dozens of others.
“It can really be about anything,” Reich says. “There’s a lot of variety.”
Some programs are short-term — just a few days — while others are longer-term and can span anywhere from a few weeks to a month or longer. “We could have six delegations at the same time,” Reich says.
Most of the programs are funded by the U.S. Department of State, but Global Ties Detroit is also supported by corporate and individual sponsors.
A selection of programs, like certain networking events, are free to attend, and Reich encourages the Metro Detroit community to explore and participate in programming.
“We’re very interested in getting more Metro Detroiters engaged in international relations and global diplomacy,” she says. “We’re a huge border city. The biggest international trade crossing between the U.S. and Canada is right here.”