Birgit Ellinghaus studied social work and social education with an emphasis on media pedagogy in Düsseldorf. As co-founder of the socio-cultural centre Die Börse ("The Exchange") in Wuppertal in 1974/5, she is, among other things, in charge of the local district cultural centres and the cultural programme. She also lived in France for several years, where she worked as a curator for projects by exiled Turkish artists. In 1990, she founded the cultural management office "Alba Culture" in Cologne, which specialises in international artistic and cultural projects and global music – she has been the director of this establishment since its inception. She has also worked as a music producer and brought forth numerous works of ethnic contemporary music via the world music label "Heaven and Earth", which she founded in 1997. She is a mentor for "International Arts Management" at Columbia College Chicago in the department of Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management in the US, and also teaches at the Cologne College of Music. Since 2009, she has been a member of the advisory council "Contact Point for the Diversity of Forms of Cultural Expression" on the committee of experts for the German UNESCO Commission.