The Journey to TEDxYouth@Berlin

Stephan Balzer is the TEDxYouth@Berlin 2010 and 2011 Organizer and the Founder and Director of Red Onion GmbH. Stephan believes that kids know best when it comes to choosing a good TEDxYouthDay program.
 
“What sparked us to organize our first TEDxYouth@Berlin event was not an idea from an adult, but rather a response from the sons and daughters of our TEDxBerlin team members,” Stephan said. “Their kids starting asking, ‘Why don’t you do something for us?’”
 
So Stephan applied for a TEDxYouthDay license and rallied a youth board, which was made up of young people who had expressed interest in helping to design a program for TEDxYouth@Berlin. The kids discussed speaker ideas intensely and came up with a list of people which, according to Stephan, was a very strong list. Adults provided support when kids requested it. 
 
Stephan was excited by the fact that many of the kids involved in TEDxYouth@Berlin 2010 were exploring TED for the first time and were learning what it was all about.

“A TEDxYouthDay event has the power to make the young generation sensitive to local and international issues and to help them see how much our world is connected today. By speaking at an event — and even organizing one — kids get to show that what they do in their community can impact the globe.” 

Stephan discussed the uniqueness of TEDx events, particularly for Germany. He does not think that German classrooms allow for the type of sharing that happens at a TEDx event. Additionally, he feels that TEDxYouth events can help to get rid of the common assumption that kids are not able to organize events or give good talks.

“We ran into heavy discussions because the kids were promoting the conference at other schools. Some of the German school directors thought the program didn’t make sense, saying that it sounded like too much for a young audience.”

However, Stephan believes that the TEDxYouth@Berlin program was certainly not too much for the young audience. Since kids had thought of the speakers, they also got to create the order in which they wanted them speak. Stephan said that these young organizers did not have a problem with a mishmash of ideas in one session — in fact, they liked it. For example, at one session, the head of an NGO that prevented suicide spoke, followed by an entrepreneur, followed by a technology guru. 

“What mattered was the TED-like way that the speakers told their personal stories on stage — they connected and engaged with the young audience.”


For TEDxYouth@Berlin 2011, Stephan plans to tap into the livestreams from other TEDxYouthDay events so that kids can truly feel the global scale of the event. He wants the young attendees to see that the world is discussing issues for their future. 

Stephan hopes that one day TEDTalks will be used in German classrooms as inspirational tools to create fascination around ideas.

Compiled by Cloe Shasha

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