"Promote intercultural understanding generally in Europe" 
Dr Livingstone Thompson, President of SIETAR Europa (Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research)
The theme for your upcoming SIETAR Europa Congress 2015 is: “Refreshing the Cultural Paradigm: Sharing Stories, Theories and Next Practices.” Why?
In the theme we find the allusion to the realisation that the framework in which issues of culture have been framed has been dominated by cultural research going back at least 30 years. This is relevant to SIETAR Europa, whose membership is dominated by cultural practitioners and professional trainers. It has been shown again and again that practitioners need to reflect the latest research in their training strategies and methods. This explains the sub-theme of sharing stories, theories and next practice.
In the theme we also find a challenge being put to SIETAR Europa to strengthen its academic and research competencies. Some years ago we experienced the migration of some academics who argued that sufficient weight wasn’t being given to research and the development of theories. The theme alludes to an initiative under way to recover a research emphasis, which is clearly specified in the purpose of the organisation. We are therefore in search of new ideas about culture, new paradigms for articulating cultural insights and new theoretical bases to drive professional practice.
Your congress welcomes all those whose life and work puts them at the interface of cultures - like international associations. What should they know about the current cultural paradigms and in an emerging global world?
Many of 20th century cultural paradigms have been influenced by Darwinian philosophy, which wedded notions for superiority to the modern cultures while treating older cultures as archaic and backward. This philosophy was at the root of justifications for the caricature and even destruction of older cultures, or the cultures of others.
Respecting the integrity of cultures with their own values, worldviews and in internal dynamic is central to the emphasis SIETAR Europa wishes to emphasize. Moreover, we recognise that (a) cultures change and (b) an individual should not be assumed to bear all the characteristics of a particular culture or ethnic group to which he or she belongs. In our description of cultures, therefore, we aim to avoid minimisation of the cultural characteristics or stereotyping of individuals.
And where can they get latest information from?
More information relating to these and other cultural issues can be found in variety of publications, not least from the Intercultural Press, as well from a variety of sources of similar interest to SIETAR Europa. These include the following:
http: //sietareu. org/publications/journals
http: //w w w. sietareu. org/publications/book-reviews
http: //w w w. idrinstitute. org
http: //geert-hofstede. com
http: //w w w. ibinet. nl
http: //w w w. culturelink. org/news/c-news
http: //culturaldetective. com/news. shtml
http: //ridingthewavesofculture. com
How important is the SIETAR Europa Congress for your organization’s aim and mission?
The mission of the organisation is to promote intercultural understanding generally in Europe and to serve as a forum for exchange for members, academics and practitioners in the field of interculturalism. As a major gathering of leaders in that field, the congress provides the opportunity to enhance the awareness of intercultural issues in policymaking, business and education. It facilitates interaction, communication and dialogue between people from different cultures, and between people from different academic disciplines with an interest in how cultural issues impact their work. It brings together, therefore, multi-disciplinary, professional expertise in intercultural issues in practice and research. It provides opportunity for networking and invariably will surface ideas and issues that contribute to the development of standards for intercultural work. In addition, the congress provides opportunities for publicising and publishing research.
Why did you choose Valencia, Spain, as destination and the Fundación Universidad-Empresa de Valencia - ADEIT, as venue, for your SIETAR Europa Congress 2015 from 21 to 23 May?
May 21, is World Day of Cultural Diversity and dialogue. We have tried in recent times to convene the congress near that date, hence May 21-23. Valencia was chosen from a list of possible locations because the proposal put forward for Valencia was strongest mainly in terms of Affordability, Accessibility and Attractiveness in terms of accommodation, conference facilities, local support and opportunities for great cultural experience.
What are the top three challenges for SIETAR Europa these days?
Remaining relevant: this means defining a values-based vision that is relevant to the cultural imperatives of the day, sufficiently inspiring to catch the imagination of the younger academics and professionals, responsive to the trends in diversity in cultures and values, attentive to the cultures of the marginalised in Europe and empowering for critique the use and abuse of power.
Coping with the demands of virtual technologies and communication; that is, to make effective use of these without being enslaved by them; keeping a delicate balance between face-to-face interactions and virtual communication.
Organisational development: ensuring a continuous stream of leadership to come to the EU level from the national SIETARs. This will mean supporting efforts to develop the knowledge and capacity of members at the national level; supporting national SIETARs in the programming and keeping vigilance with standards of governance at the national and Europe-wide levels
SIETAR Europa is part of SIETAR the Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research. Its purpose is to encourage the development and application of knowledge, values and skills which enable effective intercultural and interethnic relations at individual, group, organisation and community levels. SIETAR holds NGO status at the United Nations and is recognized by the Council of Europe. SIETAR Europa serves as a forum for exchange among national SIETAR organizations (in Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and UK) and supports the establishment and development of new national SIETAR organizations. The SIETAR Europa Congress 2015 will take place from 21 to 23 May in Valencia. w w w. sietareu. org, w w w. sietareu. org/seucongress2015