YLabs Helps Global Youth Problem-Solve with Data and Design Thinking


Industry Non Profit
Location Berkeley, CA
Customer since 2017
Employees 11-50
Zenefits solutions
Certified Broker Partner, Payroll, Core HR, Benefits

“With Zenefits, I launched a global nonprofit while on maternity leave. In our early days, we had an economist, a doctor, and a business lead, but what we did not have was a desire for HR paperwork,” says Rebecca Hope, Executive Director of Youth Development Labs (YLabs). “So, the very first software that we purchased was Zenefits. We’ve been happy customers ever since."

YLabs is dedicated to improving young people’s health and economic inclusion through youth-driven design. YLabs works with governments and local organizations to design, evaluate, and scale programs designed in partnership with 10-24-year-olds around the world. The group currently focuses on topics including sexual and reproductive health —including menstrual health— HIV, and mental health in underserved regions such as Sub Saharan Africa.


Rebecca Hope turned her robust experiences as a doctor and a design thinker to tackle some of the biggest challenges to young people’s health and economic opportunity worldwide. The twist: she was not interested in solving problems for them, but with them.

Her big idea has captured the imagination of a team of physicians, designers, economists, UX developers, public health technical experts, and behavioral scientists. In order to catalyze their combined passion for the mission, she knew that she also needed to create a solid foundation to take care of the team.


Rebecca chose Zenefits as the tech foundation at YLabs to cover HR, Benefits, and Payroll from the very beginning.

We pride ourselves in being nimble, scrappy, and big-hearted  — which might just be why Zenefits fits us so well.

Rebecca Hope,

Teaching Problem-Solving

YLabs’ design teams collaborate with local youth to develop global solutions that bring measurable improvement to young people’s lives.

“Adolescence is a critical window of opportunity to influence behavior, growth, and development, but we have found that young people are systematically excluded from the design of health and economic solutions that are meant for them. So, our focus on youth-centered design remains the same in the time of COVID,” says Rebecca.

In four years, YLabs has worked in 15 countries: Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States. They also work with a broader network of partners and associates in South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, and Sub Saharan Africa.

One example is the CyberRwanda project, which uses technology and storytelling to equip and empower adolescents with knowledge and self-efficacy to prevent unplanned pregnancy and HIV. Co-designed and tested with over 800 young people, the CyberRwanda online platform and the corresponding in-school program includes narrative storylines, a robust FAQ library, and a youth-friendly pharmacy locator. This is a great example of a ‘self-care’ product, which could help young people have equitable access to health products and information when schools are closed and mobility is limited during COVID.

“We’re a social impact design firm that focuses on the trickiest and stickiest adolescent health challenges around the world,” says Lauryn Claassen, Marketing and Communication Lead at YLabs.

“We also stand out to new and potential employees because they know that by joining our team, their work will be impactful and their ‘weirdness’ will be welcomed.”

Taking Care of Their Big-Hearted Team

YLabs’ people priorities in 2020 are to make sure their team remains happy, healthy, and employed.

“Team wellness and good people practices don’t just happen on their own. Sure, leading by example is a great way to set the tone, but you have to operationalize your internal values so that even as you grow and your culture may naturally change, your values don’t,” says YLabs Operations Manager, Aliza Saraco-Polner. “For example, when our team transitioned to working remotely because of COVID-19, our wellness team has worked hard to make sure people are still taking days off, providing opportunities for remote socialization, and additional transparency from leadership.”

The organization is also working with existing funders and timeline changes to be more fiscally resilient. And they’ve also been awarded a PPP Grant.

“With Zenefits, we are more productive as a team, and as individuals,” adds Aliza. “We use Zenefits to help our team remain autonomous and function like a well-oiled-machine by being able to record work from home and vacation time, manage payroll for our staff and contractors, and handle our benefits administration — all in one place.

“We are super busy. Zenefits lets our team focus our energy on designing and  growing and creating — rather than on recovering passwords from a pathetic plethora of different HR platforms.”

Here’s a peek at the inspiring impact YLabs is making with their focused time:

  • This year, YLabs’ CyberRwanda project will reach 25,000 students across eight districts in Rwanda with digital family planning and reproductive health education and youth-friendly care.
  • The Beyond Bias project is currently being implemented in Tanzania, Burkina Faso, and Pakistan and will reach 1,000 providers to transform attitudes and behaviors towards youth seeking contraception.
  • The Safire project will reach 25,000 girls in 2 countries to reduce mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortion among adolescents.

All of us at Zenefits are proud to play a part in making it easier for YLabs to make a lasting difference in the lives of young people around the world.