Managing directors

The managing directors act as the legal representatives of the Association (Board of Directors) and are accountable for the conduct of their responsibilities. They authorise coordinators to undertake tasks on their behalf. Managing directors of Interpret Europe are:

Managing Director:
Thorsten Ludwig (Germany)

In 2000, I followed an invitation from Patrick Lehnes to join the assembly founding Interpret Europe as the European Network for Heritage Interpretation. Some years after its formal establishment as an association, I became an elected member of IE's Supervisory Committee. In 2015, I was appointed Managing Director. My core fields of responsibility are membership development, communication, networking, research and training.

My management experience first grew in the early 1990s when I was responsible for setting up the education department for a German national park. We focused on day programmes for school classes, with up to 50 seasonal workers and almost 10,000 participants per year. 25 years later, this system is still in use.

For 12 years, I was on the Board of Directors of the German Association for Natural and Environmental Education (ANU) and one of three members of the Leuchtpol Supervisory Board. Leuchtpol was the largest German sponsoring initiative for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) with a budget of €28 million over four years.

As concerns managing cultural heritage, I chaired the Board of Directors of a foundation for three years that was in charge of a medieval castle, including a hostel with 180 beds, a learning centre and a state archive. One of my achievements was to make the foundation more sustainable by establishing a system of experts and youth groups to maintain the historic buildings, resulting in up to 8,000 volunteer working hours per year. This system is still in place.

As member of a nationwide steering committee, I supported the development of the German training programme Certified Nature and Landscape Guide for more than ten years. I introduced and managed a three-year training project called ParcInterp with scientific support and in conjunction with three national key stakeholder associations who as a result agreed on common interpretive training standards in German protected areas.

Within the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union, I was involved in the projects TOPAS (Training of Protected Area Staff) as trainer, RWL (Real World Learning Network) as country coordinator and HeriQ (Quality in Heritage Interpretation) as transfer partner.

Since 1993, I have been running my own company, Bildungswerk interpretation, as a consultancy for interpretive training and planning. I studied archaeology, hold an MSc in Interpretation Management and Practice from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI, UK) and have been acknowledged by the National Association for Interpretation (NAI, USA) as Certified Interpretive Planner (CIP) and as Certified Interpretive Trainer (CIT). Once a year I teach interpretation as a six-day residential module at the University for Sustainable Development (HNE, Germany).

I believe that heritage interpretation plays an essential role in meeting some of the key challenges we are currently facing in Europe. As Managing Director of Interpret Europe, I see my task to express this at a political level, by developing Interpret Europe together with our dedicated members as a platform for exchange between European heritage stakeholders and by increasing the outreach and the quality of heritage interpretation in Europe.

Managing Director:
Sebastian Zoepp (Germany)

Interview in June 2016 by Katja Winter

Sebastian, you recently joined Thorsten Ludwig as Managing Director of Interpret Europe. What was your motivation behind this step?

The motivation was to reconnect with working on more of an international level. I have already worked in development projects in the Philippines 15 years ago and always felt inspired by the diversity which people from different nations and cultures bring. However, for the last couple of years I have been very much focused on working on a more regional level. Working as a Managing Director for IE gives me the chance to connect again to colleagues all over Europe on a professional level and to exchange ideas as well as to cooperate wherever possible. My personal goal behind all this is to gain experience which helps me to foster sustainable development in rural areas all over Europe – and even beyond. I consider interpretation as one important instrument to achieve this goal. 

What competences and experience do you bring to the role of Managing Director?

I have been self-employed for more than ten years, always dealing with the natural and cultural heritage of the UNESCO biosphere reserve, Spreewald in Germany. During this time, I have set up two enterprises; one in the field of education for sustainable development and one in tourism. In both enterprises heritage interpretation plays a key role in raising people’s awareness for the value of the regional heritage.

I have also been involved in several projects, such as ParcInterp, in which I have worked as an interpretive trainer. Moreover, I am familiar with working in an association, having worked on the executive committee of an association before. All combined, I bring a wide range of experience in the field of management and finance. Together with my long-standing practical experience and professional involvement in heritage interpretation, this will be an enrichment for IE. 

In your opinion, what are the great opportunities for the development of IE within the next five years?

IE can connect a large number of practitioners as well as stakeholders in the field of heritage interpretation. The big chance of IE is to become the number one professional action and exchange platform for all European interpreters. IE allows all these people to connect, to exchange ideas and to represent their interests at a European level. In this way, IE can increase the importance of one single person on a local level and make his/ her knowledge available on an international level.

In addition, I think IE has enormous potential to become a key player in maintaining Europe’s natural and cultural heritage, through extended cooperation with tourism businesses, those delivering formal and non-formal learning and regional development.

What would you like to achieve for IE in the near future?

During my managing era, one of the first things to focus on will be to further professionalise the internal structures of IE so that we can smoothly handle the ongoing increase in members. This means, for example, to improve our membership database and back office software. In addition, the further involvement of our members as volunteers for specific tasks and projects will be a great achievement for the near future and the long-term implementation of our strategic goals.

What’s your personal wish for the near future of IE?

I see IE as an international platform for personal and professional exchange. The central idea behind this is on-going exchange and cooperation on an international level – all over Europe and beyond. That’s what the original idea of Europe is all about.

IE provides the ideal opportunities for this kind of exchange and cooperation: We act from the basis of focusing on local levels of all kinds and connect on an international level in order to make our local voices heard. Therefore, my wish for the near future of IE is to have more and more members being willing to bring in their competences and knowledge to cooperate with the Management in order to move IE one big step forward.

Our mission

To serve all who use
first-hand experiences
to give natural and
cultural heritage a
deeper meaning