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I'm Getting Ready for Some Youth-Centered Design to Open My Mind

I'm Getting Ready for Some Youth-Centered Design to Open My Mind

By Josh Bettenhausen | March 8, 2019
Lead Technology & Marketing Officer, YTH

I’ve been working with youth-centered projects for well over a decade, both through my work at YTH and my experience as a designer. Here’s an essential point of learning from my experience: when it comes to youth, most of our assumptions are wrong. At the very least, they’re way off base, especially if we make those assumptions without getting youth directly and deeply involved in what we’re doing.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy my work with YTH so much. It’s also one of the reasons I know the upcoming YTH Live conference is going to be an outstanding experience.

YTH Live is the outcome of a deliberate and intentional commitment to youth-centered design, and it’s like no other conference I’ve ever attended. It weaves together areas of vital interest to youth, as well as those who work in youth services—technology, innovation, health and empowerment.

YTH Live is Coming to San Francisco May 5-6, 2019

YTH Live is the premier youth tech health conference, bringing together leaders in all areas of youth health and technology. It will showcase the brightest minds and cutting edge research on topics ranging from sexual and reproductive health to mental health and digital rights. Whether you are an Executive Director, developer, IT professional, educator or high school student, YTH Live can help you learn about the latest trends in health, innovation and technology. ETR recognizes YTH Live’s forward-thinking and is proud to be this year’s presenting sponsor.

Learn more here.

Imagine It for Yourself

Imagine this for a moment. How might we design a conference focused on youth that actually puts youth at the center? That puts youth in a position of power? That puts youth in a position of strength? If we’re adults, and professionals, and “experts,” how can we authentically invite youth who are not those things to share their thoughts and experiences with us? How can we lean towards their wisdom about how people in professional roles can best connect with youth? How can we listen to the things they are telling us so that we may all become better in our work and, frankly, just better humans?

These are the sorts of questions the YTH conference organizers pose at every juncture of planning, and of course, we have youth advising us every step of the way. We’re getting pretty good at it now—we’ve had 11 years of practice.

See It for Yourself

What happens when we integrate these kinds of sensibilities into a conference design? Here is some of the learning I've personally witnessed in my years of attendance:

  • Youth open our eyes. YTH Live brings forth the voices of youth to share exactly what the “experts” aren't doing. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but we “experts” know it’s true. We work, we strive, we are sincere—and we still miss opportunities. The youth who play a role in YTH Live can help us see some of what we’re missing.
  • Youth deliver innovation. Youth stand before crowds sharing what they are doing to promote health and wellness in their communities. They care about their own and their peers’ health and well being. They have innovative ideas—including ideas the adults in the room haven’t thought of. At YTH Live, youth lead attendees through teaching sessions about next gen technology. They share their opinions. They give us tips. They surprise us and help us see new possibilities.
  • Youth influence our thinking. Are you someone who presents at conferences and workshops? A presentation at YTH Live can add credibility to a career through the power and virtue of youth presence. I’ve seen talks completely reshaped by youth influencers in a room. Read it right, and they'll share the missing link to a research topic or a new concept. Read it wrong, and you may find your research needs to be seriously reassessed. Daunting? Well, it can be. But it’s also an incredibly exciting process to watch and be a part of.

Discover Your Own Stories

Here’s my one-sentence summary of YTH Live: It’s all the best ideas and all the biggest hearts in one place, at one time, talking about the same subject—youth-centered health design.

I hope you’ll consider attending this year’s conference. It promises to be a unique and memorable experience. Join in, listen, discover your own stories, advance your wisdom, and benefit from the extraordinary insights of young leaders, parents, teachers, advocates, researchers and more. These individuals are changing the world. YTH Live is a great way to join in their number.


Josh Bettenhausen is Lead Technology and Marketing Officer at YTH. He can be reached at

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