AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Hello All! I’m Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator and sometimes Saturday contributor with a bunch of Rad Resources – free photo sites for all your evaluation projects and presentations.

In case you haven’t heard, cheesy stock photos are out! Show me a stock photo of an office setting and I guarantee someone in the photo will be wearing a light blue button-down shirt!

cheesy stock photo

You can easily find much more interesting photos!

Rad Resources: 

1.) Flickr.com – my favorite go-to site. It claims to be “the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” It features an easily navigable interface and the ability to filter results by license type. The downside? There are so many photos here you can easily lose time searching and scrolling for the one that suits your project best. Flickr.com also has an app for mobile devices.

2.) Pixabay.com – No need to worry about copyright or attributions here. “All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty-free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required.” While Flickr.com features billions (yes!) of photos, Pixabay.com has a mere 560,000. While that sounds like a lot, it means that Pixabay.com won’t always have exactly what you’re looking for.

3.) Unsplash.com – Another site with no copyright or attribution worries. “All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.” Unsplash.com features a curated set of stunningly beautiful photos. What Unsplash lacks in number of photos, it makes up in quality. It also features a free subscription service where you receive 10 new images in your email box each week.

4.) Wikimedia Commons – Featuring 30+ million freely usable media files, Wikimedia Commons is huge, but takes some sorting through to find what you want. Be on the lookout for licenses, because while the site is free, licenses vary here. “Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as they follow the terms specified by the author; this often means crediting the source and author(s) appropriately…”

5.) New York Public Library Public Domain Collections – Here’s the newcomer in the ring. “On January 6th, 2016, The New York Public Library made over 187K digital items in the public domain available for high resolution download.” Even with a smaller number of photos available, this collection is definition worth exploring. Try their visualization tool with images searchable by century created, genre, and even color!

Do an internet search for free photo sites, and you will find many, many more! Enjoy!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Dr. Moya Alfonso, MSPH, and I’m an Associate Professor at Georgia Southern University and University Sector Representative and Board Member for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA).

So you want to be an evaluator but you’re unfamiliar how to moderate focus group discussions – a key qualitative approach involved with formative, process, and summative evaluations. Plus, there are limited to no focus group specific courses in your program of study. Do not lose hope. All it takes is some creative thinking.

Focus group discussions are a qualitative research method that involves a focused set of questions that are asked of six to 10 focus group participants. The keyword in this definition is focused – discussions revolve around a specific topic.

Lesson Learned: Focus groups are done when you are interested in group dynamics, participant language, stories and experiences, and a breadth of information. Focus groups are wonderful; however, they are designed for a very specific purpose and have limitations that should be considered (e.g., difficulty with recruitment, brief stories or snippets of information, etc.).

Hot Tips: These resources will help you learn about focus groups and how to moderate discussion:

  1. Find a mentor: Most of my training and expertise in focus group research was gained through hands-on experience. I worked with experienced qualitative researchers who enabled me to co-facilitate, and then later conduct focus groups and train others. Many evaluators are open to mentoring those starting out in the field. Technology can facilitate your mentor search process by providing opportunities for remote relationships.       Try searching university expertise databases for potential mentors or the American Evaluation Association’s evaluator database.
  2. Read everything you can about focus group research: One of the focus group research resources is Krueger’s Focus Group Toolkit.       Although a new copy of this toolkit may stretch your budget, used copies are available. Start with Krueger’s free resource on focus group research. The toolkit takes you through everything from recruitment, participatory approaches, focus group research, question development, and to data analysis and report writing. It’s a worthy investment.
  3. Look for other virtual resources: A terrific resource for focus group research is the Community Toolbox, which provides access to numerous focus group resources.
  4. Attend (many) conferences: Reconsider spending your student loan check on a vacation and head to a conference! You can do both; for example, the annual University of South Florida’s Social Marketing Conference is held at a lovely beach resort. This conference historically provides a course in focus group research.

Conducting focus group research takes practice, practice, and more practice. Good luck on becoming a well-trained focus group moderator!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

My name is Jason Lawrence and I am a Management Fellow on the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Affairs teams for Leon County Government in Florida. I am also a recent graduate of the Master of Public Administration Program at the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University.

Local governments are the linchpins of our democracy in that these entities are able to provide optimal services to citizens, which means society is functioning at its most basic level. But how can citizens gauge how well a specific department within their local government, or the organization overall, performs in terms of service delivery and effectiveness?

Hot Tip: Statistical dashboards have become the most effective way of doing so. These online databases complement budget documents and annual reports and help residents keep track of what a local government does with taxpayers’ dollars. Dashboards are often presented as infographics, the data of which is taken from raw numbers reported by different departments to a central office, often at the executive level.

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Source: https://data.cityofnewyork.us/dashboard

Lesson Learned: In local governments, for example, citizens may be interested in how many police arrests were made in the first quarter of the year. Or, how many tons of recyclable material has the solid waste department processed? While such quantitative performance data is useful in terms of invoking citizen engagement, it often dismisses service quality in favor of service quotas. Put more simply, numbers do not and cannot properly explain performance and leave out how citizens really feel about the local government services they receive as well as reflecting those citizens that have access and those that do not.

Hot Tip: Local governments considering or that already utilize a dashboard on their websites should, therefore, find ways to gather rich qualitative data to enhance performance reporting – whether it be included in a dashboard or within the pages of an annual report or budget document. This can be done by conducting surveys at community events or on a monthly basis through the main page of a website, and can be specific to a different department or service.

Adding a “human” element to performance reporting will not only shape the significance citizens place on local government, but could also help these entities better align their priorities with the pulse of their communities.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

My name is Melanie Meyer and I work with the research office of the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). As my background is in health and human services policy and administration, and I have a Master’s in Adult and Continuing Education, I am interested in how organizations develop their talent and how we can make lifelong learning appealing for everyone.

Lesson Learned: Communication takes on a lot of different shapes and is the tool for managing a lot of different tasks during an evaluation. Helping young evaluators hone their interpersonal skills sometimes take a backseat to the more technical skills, but understanding, collecting and expressing the right information effectively is a critical skill to building up your credibility and effectiveness.

When you are good at communicating, things seem to go better. For example, an elder law attorney once told me that he was so good at communicating with and helping his elderly clients that they would agree to accept a guardian (and a judicical finding of incapacity) and that they thanked him!

Hot Tip: We all need that kind of interpersonal finesse when presenting findings that could be difficult for the audience to hear or are vulnerable for misunderstanding. To teach these skills, you can use case studies to help young professionals identify the coded meaning or implicit challenge. For example:

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Lesson Learned: In addition to being skilled in decoding spoken messages, evaluators can benefit from honing their reflective or empathic listening skills (check out Brené Brown’s take on empathy). People, largely, want to convey their knowledge and experience and know that the person they are giving their time to really hears all of their messages.

Rad Resources: Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that “empathic listening is not listening to advise, counsel, replay, refute, solve, fix, change, judge, agree, disagree, question, analyze, or figure out.” With empathic listening, evaluators can more often draw more robust information from people in interviews and can more effectively navigate the egg shells, minefields, dips, and peaks of planning, producing and presenting an effective evaluation. For more information, see Natasha V. Christie’s article, “An Interpersonal Skills Learning Taxonomy for Program Evaluation Instructors.”

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Marina Byrd, analyst with the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) and program co-chair for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA). I started my evaluation career with OPPAGA after graduating with a Master’s of Public Policy from the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration at the University of Kentucky. I would like to offer three lessons I learned about the skills students should develop during their last year of graduate school to be successful during their first year in the evaluation field.

Lesson Learned 1: Develop survey development and survey software skills. Often times, evaluators face research questions that lack the information to adequately answer them. When this occurs, evaluators use surveys to gather information. Taking a course on survey development during graduate school will prepare you to handle surveys like a pro during your first year. If your university does not offer a class, try looking for classes online, such as the course “Questionnaire Design for Social Surveys on Coursera, or check out books on survey design.

Additionally, evaluators need to be familiar with survey software to implement online surveys. Look for courses that include an introduction to survey software, such as Qualtrics or NoviSurvey. If your university does not offer a course, talk to a professor to see if there are opportunities to familiarize yourself with survey software in your department.

Lesson Learned 2: Increase your knowledge of statistics and statistical tools. Evaluators increasingly use big data to answer research questions. Analyzing big data requires a statistical background and the ability to use statistical programs. During your last year of graduate school, sign up for one or more statistics courses. Additionally, find opportunities to use statistical tools, such as Microsoft Excel, Stata, or IBM SPSS. These opportunities can be formal classes, online courses through Coursera, or working with a professor to use your department’s statistical tool to incorporate data into your thesis.

Lesson Learned 3: Cultivate communication. Communication is the key to sharing your results with your co-workers, stakeholders, and the public. During your last year of graduate school, cultivate both your written and oral communication skills. Written skills can be improved through volunteering to write for your department’s newsletter or through online resources, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures’ webinar titled, “Making Readers Care about Your Writing.” Oral communication skills can be developed by taking advantage of opportunities for public speaking and asking for feedback from professors.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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My name is Dr. Michelle Chandrasekhar and I am an Independent Evaluation Consultant and serve as Board Secretary for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA). From my work in higher education and state government, I’ve often walked into situations where trust and transparency issues are present, in particular, when my work is part an organizational change project.

Lesson Learned: Keeping the various audiences informed is critical to the success of your project and increasing the utility of an evaluation.

Hot Tip: Enhance your voice. As a foundation, reference and apply the Program Evaluation Standards and AEA Guiding Principles to the work you do and the support you bring to the project. Yes, bring copies with you to leave! I make a point to refer to best practice or common practice in the field, especially when it comes to the importance of identifying and considering the stakeholder groups for the project. I also make sure I mention setting up timelines for products, which helps to set the stage for my second strategy.

Cool Trick, but it’s not really a trick… My second strategy is to start talking about the timeline of events as soon as possible. We do a bit of that in the first contact, but I recommend that you send an email to your stakeholders right after the first meeting to recap your discussion and highlight any dates you discussed. It is helpful to include a print copy – a draft timeline that includes communication steps for when and how you anticipate keeping the different audiences for the project informed. Now you have something your client can see and share. This also leads to my third strategy.

Cool Trick: Learn from your clients/stakeholders. I am not the expert when it comes to knowing all the particulars of an organization I’ve been recruited to help. Use your draft timeline as part of your communications strategy. My draft timeline provides me with an opening to have that conversation: How do people in the organization stay informed? What are the preferred formats, frequency, and contacts? Who might need to edit/approve messages before distribution? Although we live in the age of emails and websites, surprisingly, sometimes the best way to inform some groups is still through a regularly scheduled meeting with leadership.

Let that seemingly dowdy draft of a table start an early discussion on how you will keep yourself, your client, and the stakeholders informed. Use the standards and guidelines to reinforce why this method for transparency is a good thing in making your evaluation project useful to its stakeholders!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Sheena Horton, Senior Analyst at MGT of America, Inc., and Board Member for the Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA). It is no surprise that the use of data visualization in reporting and marketing is thriving. Studies have shown that humans process visual information better and faster than text. Data visualization can provide viewers with easily understood, actionable data and be more engaging to an audience in instances when the use of simple text can fall short.

Lesson Learned: Extend your use of data visualization beyond the workplace, and apply your data design skills to evaluating and strengthening your professional network, skills, and career profile.

Hot Tip: Conduct a social network analysis to evaluate your professional social network to identify your strong connections. Look for areas in your field, specialization, geographic location, or position type and level (e.g. managerial or mid-level) where you may need to build better connections. Note the networks where you can make contributions, and identify the best connections for conducting outreach to learn more about a specific area or skill.

Rad Resources: There are numerous data visualization tools available online to help you get started analyzing your social network. Socilab can provide you with a high-level overview of your LinkedIn network connections to jumpstart your analysis.

Hot Tip: Use data visualization to take stock of your hard and soft skills to determine the range of your strengths and to pinpoint skills to develop. A simple mind maphttp://www.mindmapping.com/ of your core skills can help you see where you can build upon your current skill set, or discover new skill areas to develop. Mind mapping adds focus to your professional development brainstorming, and helps to initiate an action plan.

Rad Resource: MindMeister is a popular and user-friendly mind mapping tool that can help you to start charting your skills quickly.

Hot Tip: Include data visualization in your resume, on LinkedIn, or on your professional website to showcase your skills and your career through visual storytelling. Determine where using data visualization can be useful based on your audience and the message you want to communicate. The visualization you select should display your data appropriately and engage your audience. A minimalist design works best; be careful not to go overboard. The key is to communicate your data simply and quickly.

Rad Resources: ResumUP and Vihttp://vizualize.me/zualize.me are good starting resources to experiment with framing your data and gathering ideas for display. A visualization that works for one person’s data may not work as well with your own.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Southeast Evaluation Association (SEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the SEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from SEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hi my name is Jayne Corso and I am the Community Manager for AEA. Are you getting the most out of LinkedIn? A complete and active profile allows you to connect with more professionals and expand your network. Try these tips to increase your engagement on LinkedIn.

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Hot Tip: Always have a recent (and professional) photo

A profile picture is very important on LinkedIn because it is how you make your first impression. More people are willing to connect with you if you have a picture—a way to put a face with your name.  Use your updated headshot or take a professional photo on your own.

Remember your LinkedIn profile is very different than a Facebook profile. You should avoid using a photo with multiple people, late night photos, photos of your kids, or anything that shows you in a less than professional light.

Hot Tip: Fill out everything and add examples of your work

Make your profile as full as possible! Your resume is supposed to be a 1-2 page summary of your skills, often directly relating to your current position or the one you are applying for. On LinkedIn, you can expand. Add experience that might not fit on your resume.  Add your volunteer experience, your independent course work, or a position that you might not have room for on your resume.

You should also add examples of your work. Share reports, papers, or analysis that you have worked on. This is an excellent way to showcase your skills to your peers and possible employers.

Hot Tip: Make connections

Expand your LinkedIn network and make relevant connections. Search for people with similar interests. You can use keywords, company names, or titles to find people to connect with. You can also reach out to those who are connected with people in your network. LinkedIn will provide a list of recommended connections based on your previous work experience, relationships, and interests. It’s important to have a robust and relevant network, you never know when someone can help you with a project, find a job, or identify a unique opportunity.

Happy Networking!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Art Hernandez and I am a Professor and Dean at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi.

I participated in one of the very early yearlong experiences as an AEA MSI Fellow and have served as the Director for several cohorts most recently this past year. I serve and have served as evaluator and teacher of evaluation and am very interested in the processes of cultural responsiveness in practice especially in regards to measurement and assessment.

Lesson Learned: The negative feelings associated with “difference” and the desire to live in a “normal” world with “normal” people often limits our desire to be in contact much less significantly interact with members of different cultural groups. Among other things, the lack of opportunity for significant experience/interaction and the associated feelings results in stereotyping as a means of coping and explaining.

Hot Tip: It is essential to have a significant “relationship” with the people who are involved in the activity being evaluated. This means developing and establishing significant relationships and doing so for its own sake rather than merely as a device to establish “cultural responsiveness”. In order to have any type of meaningful relationship it is important first to have a good sense of self – knowing your values, biases and “world view” and to be open to any differences in those attitudes and beliefs you might encounter in others. Finally, it is imperative that you reserve judgment and risk making “respectful mistakes.” Respectful mistakes are misunderstandings based in honest interest and founded in honest positive regard for the other person(s). 

Rad Resource: Cultural Competence and Community Studies: Concepts and Practices for Cultural Competence

The Stranger’s Eyes describes a community project and the differences in perspectives between the “benefactors” and those who were to benefit. A link provides access to a reflection guide of questions to guide the consideration of the presented case study. Provided by SIL International.

The American Evaluation Association is AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. For more information on the MSI fellowship, see this webpage: http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=230 Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Greetings. My name is Tiffeny Jimenez and I identify first as a Community Psychologist (CP). I am also an Assistant Professor of the Community Psychology Doctoral program at National Louis University in Chicago. As a CP, I inherently very quickly identify inequalities, injustices, and potential for collaboration where others may be more likely to see only conflict, and from this perspective, evaluation is a particularly salient and necessary skill set. How else might we judge whether social justice is achieved? It is towards this aim that I take on all inquiry and action. This year, I have had the privilege to be one of this year’s MSI Fellows where I have worked with colleagues towards gaining an in-depth interdisciplinary perspective on the state of our understanding Cultural Competence across Social Work, Health Psychology, Sociology, and Community Psychology. I will speak to the contribution of CP to this focus area.

Lesson Learned: The overall CP framework facilitates cultural competency and humility in all acts of professionalism with explicit emphasis on how we think and why we act in certain ways within a socio-cultural ecological context. CP views cultural competency as cross-cultural awareness assuming we all are interdependent and come to the table with diverse cultural lenses that influence action. Cultural competency is a critical consciousness beyond the acquisition of skills; it’s a way of being in every day interactions that allows for a clearer understanding of one’s own personal place in the world, personal biases, and an understanding that multiple perspectives are present at any one time.

The emphasis of CP is on promoting social justice and identifying the root causes of social problems by changing conditions so diverse populations can thrive individually within a shared geography. Much of the literature on cultural competency centers around: providing in-depth localized case examples of how CPs engage as equal peers with others to address individual and social problems from a culturally grounded perspective; describe adaptations of community programming to meet the needs of underserved populations; discuss the importance of using methods that capture historical context and the voices of less dominant perspectives; emphasize the promotion of dynamic processes within community-level systems rather than individual-level outcomes; and advocate understanding the cultural landscape that undergirds the various policies and practices that perpetuate inequalities and maintain the status quo. Main concepts: power, privilege, structural inequality, decolonizing methodologies, organizational culture, critical consciousness, liberation, indigenous psychologies, divergent cultural practices, and ecological sustainability.

Rad Resources: For more information on being culturally competent, see “Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice” (2015). Particularly Chapter 4 by Kien Lee titled “Effecting Social Change in Diverse Contexts”. The Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice also addresses cultural competency in CP practice from a global perspective: http://www.gjcpp.org/en/article.php?issue=16&article=77

The American Evaluation Association is AEA Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowship Experience week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AEA’s MSI Fellows. For more information on the MSI fellowship, see this webpage: http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=230 Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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