'11 come clean right away. I'm not a youth worker but I have worked with various youth services over the years and I think familiar with the kind of work they do. So when a deep, A4 size cardboard box with lots of different sized bits of paper landed on my desk, I'll admit I was taken aback, intimidated even.
The Rap Pack is one of a series of five resources produced specifically for youth workers by the University of Northumbria's Social Welfare Research Unit.
The culmination of a three-year research project, the series of packs cover the topics of crime, drugs, parenthood, school and employment and training.
Having looked at existing materials and discounted most of them on the grounds that they were boring and uninteresting, not suitable for informal settings and didn't encourage dialogue (that is, they were prescriptive), the research unit set out to develop something better.
The Rap Pack was developed closely with youth workers in the North East and is based on the key concept of dialogue. In the pack's Dialogue Handbook, or practice manual, this is explained as: "a process where we try to create situations where the young person and the youth worker are able to explore and question the underlying values, beliefs and understandings; find fallacies, discover irrational and inconsistent conclusions and build consistent, rational and realistic values, beliefs and understandings in their place".
So, the pack is all about not telling young people what to think but getting them to think clearly about the issues themselves.
It consists of three basic components. The first is the Dialogue Handbook, which sets out a process for the individual worker (or, probably more usefully, groups of workers) to go through, exploring the effective use of informal contact with young people, using their own experience as the starting point.
The second is the wealth of printed material for use with young people. This is based around various characters - Joe Sorted, Mick Motormouth, Chris Condom, Ronnie Rasta, and so on - who are seen in a variety of media and circumstances. Stereotypes they may be, but also quite recognisable by young people.
There are numerous ways of raising questions and issues about employment and training, including horoscopes, a guide to problem parents, stickers, quizzes and word searches, information booklets and discussion starting points, to name a few.
The third part of the pack is the Resource Originals book, which gives copies of all the resources that can be used with young people - these can be photocopied repeatedly. I would like to have seen it published in a spiral bound format for easier photocopying, but, from the look of the whole pack, it was produced on a shoestring, relatively speaking. No glossy commercially produced resource, this. It's pretty basic, flimsy even.
When I worked with youth workers, they used to tell me that no one ever produced materials specifically for them. Well, The Rap Pack is specially for them, and, yes, I do still think it is a bit intimidating. I know it is meant to be used flexibly, which is commendable, but I would have liked to see more consideration given to helping people finding their way around the material.
Having said that, I can see a lot of use for the pack as a basis for training youth workers.
A The pack is available from the unit at 6 North Street East, Newcastle upon Tyne NEl 85T. Tel: 0191-227 4554 .