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Hi there! My name is Bemene Piaro. I am an epidemiologist, a longtime resident of the Greater Atlanta area, and peace and social justice activist. Atlanta is known for promoting change through social justice.

Rad Resource: Social Justice Opportunities. Whenever Georgia has an execution scheduled, one can elect to protest the death penalty at the state capital with Georgians For an Alternative to the Death Penalty (GFADP) and a host of other organizations; or on any Wednesday, one can protest war or any number of issues he or she is passionate about on Moreland Avenue and Ponce de Leon with the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition. The Health Law Partnership (HeLP) offers legal services for clients of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who would otherwise be unable to afford a lawyer. Similar to HeLP, the Georgia Justice Project and the Southern Center for Human Rights provide legal services free of charge to those in the prison system or facing criminal charges and their families. A host of other nonprofits carry out direct services as well as legislative advocacy aspects, including, Lost-N-Found Youth, which advocates for homeless LGBT youth, and the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center, which provides a wide variety of services to homeless men and women in addition to advocating around key legislative issues which they believe impact homelessness. While many of these organizations regularly write about their work and produce facts about their fields only HeLP and the Lost-N-Found Youth showcase quantitative assessments of their impact on their websites.

Questions to Ponder: How might evaluations inform us about the unique roles peace and justice organizations serve in addressing health determinants in a quantifiable way?

Rad Resources: Atlanta AEA affiliate. The Atlanta affiliate of the American Evaluation Association recently piloted a pro-bono evaluation program, which could aid peace and justice focused non-profits ready to explore evaluation. For more information visit: http://atl-eval.org/get-involved-with-aaea/pro-bono-evaluation/.

Rad Resources: The Health Law Partnership (HeLP)’s website is a good resource for nonprofits trying to understand what evaluation could mean for them. Check out this link to learn more: https://healthlawpartnership.org/evaluation__research/program_evaluation/.

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hello! We are Kate Hurd and Meenoo Mishra, local Atlanta public health consultants and lovers of good food! We’re excited to welcome you to Atlanta for the American Evaluation Association conference in October. Our city offers many exciting experiences and culinary delights. In this blog, we highlight our favorite neighborhoods in Atlanta and the great food you can find here.

Hot Tips: Atlanta is home to many unique neighborhood where you can find a range of delicious options. One favorite neighborhood for good ethnic eats is Buford Highway. More of a long stretch of road than a neighborhood, both sides of the highway are full of global favorites such as Mexican, Korean, Malaysian, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. This is a bit of a drive, but if you have a car we recommend you don’t miss out! Some favorite picks are:

Krog Street Market in Inman Park is another fun and tasty option. It’s a collection of local food stalls, restaurants, and retail shops in a beautiful 1920s warehouse. Notable restaurants are Gu’s Dumplings, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and Yalla for Mediterranean food. Krog Street Market is a short Uber ride away from the conference and a guaranteed good time!

There are a variety of dining options available downtown near the conference site. With more than 300 restaurants in the area, there truly is something for everyone. Here are some of our favorites!

A 15-minute walk from the conference will put you at Sweet Auburn Curb Market in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Steeped in history, The Curb Market includes produce and meat merchants, a full service bakery, a bookstore, pharmacy, and eleven eateries that includes barbeque and arepas!

Finally, Ponce City Market is a newly restored historic building located in Old Fourth Ward. It is a mixed-use development with several restaurants, a food hall, as well as boutiques and retail shops. Ponce City Market is located 1.5 miles away from the North Avenue Marta Station and there is a free shuttle bus to take you from Marta to the market.

Bon Appetit!

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hi, we are Omoshalewa Bamkole and Natalie Taylor, student members of the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association and the Local Affiliate Working Group. This post is designed to share our perspective on Atlanta, some downtown eats, and experiences. Since you’ll be an Atlantan for the duration of the conference, it’s important for you to understand some idiosyncrasies that make this city unique. We hope this will give you a sneak peek of what’s to come when you visit Atlanta this October.

Hot Tip: “The Perimeter.” Whether you’re inside or outside the perimeter can be the deciding factor in understanding the local geography. Interstate 285 is the major highway that circles the metropolitan area of Atlanta, and serves as a boundary line for most locals. If you’re an Atlanta native, being “inside the perimeter” (ITP) or “outside the perimeter” (OTP) will make for huge differences in lifestyle. Being ITP may be for those who like the fast paced nature of the city and easy access to a variety of arts and cultural centers, while being OTP lends itself to a more family-friendly and suburban environment.

Hot Tip: Atlanta Neighborhoods. While in the ATL, you’ll be blown away by the unique, eclectic neighborhoods sprawling throughout the region. Check out the giant skull at the Vortex in Little Five Points. Visit the birthsite of Martin Luther King Jr. in Sweet Auburn, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If possible, venture to the historical Cabbagetown District and see a revitalized former textile mill community.

Fun Facts:

Atlanta Firsts

 Must See’s in Atlanta

  • Don’t miss out on some delicious Southern cooking. Make your reservation at Southern Elements today, and try recipes from Charleston all the way to the Mississippi Gulf.
  • Visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to learn about movements of the past and present-day, and the role you can play in achieving equality for all!
  • Get up close to the latest breaking global news at the CNN Center! Take the “Inside CNN Studio Tour” for an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime view of their global headquarters.
  • Look no further for a place to quench your thirst and begin your quest for Coke’s famous secret recipe than at the World of Coca-Cola!
  • Experience Atlanta railways, trails, parks, housing, and artsy green spaces by foot or bike along the Beltline!

 

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Welcome to Atlanta! We are Elizabeth Runkle, a Senior Consultant and Regional Manager with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and Dayna S. Alexander, Evaluation Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Division of Reproductive Health (DRH).

Atlanta has a wide variety of nonprofits from large international relief organizations to small arts focused community based organizations. In 2015, the Atlanta Metro Area had four of the top 20 nonprofit organizations in the country including two in downtown Atlanta – the Boys and Girls Club National Headquarters and the American Cancer Society. Atlanta is also home to several nationally known place-based collaborations between nonprofits, private and public partners. Located in Atlanta’s historic Mechanicsville neighborhood, Dunbar Learning Center brings together several nonprofits in one location that focus on children birth to 5th grade along with their parents. This collaboration has brought together the Annie E Casey Foundation’s Civic Site, Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Center, the Center for Working Families, Westside Works and many others. Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood has brought funders, nonprofits, government and private partners together to change the landscape and economics of this neighborhood.

Hot tips, lessons learned, and rad resources for those interested in conducting evaluation work with nonprofits include:

Hot Tip #1: Develop a realistic timeline. Because nonprofit settings have many competing priorities and some staff have limited knowledge of evaluation, it is vital to develop a timeline for evaluation tasks. This helps with accountability, organizing the work, and alleviates stress for both the evaluator and the nonprofit.

Hot Tip #2: Develop evaluation questions based on resources and priorities. The evaluator and nonprofit staff members should develop clear evaluation questions and prioritize them according to the evaluation purpose and the resources available. 

Lessons Learned: Communicate effectively and efficiently with the nonprofit team. Provide weekly updates with the nonprofit staff members about the status of assigned tasks, challenges, and their needs. An open line of communication will help build trust, improve teamwork, and help reach consensus. 

Lessons Learned: Be flexible. When working with nonprofits it is important to adapt to new priorities and respond quickly. This demonstrates to nonprofit staff members that you are committed to the assigned project and the evaluation will be successfully conducted.

Rad Resource:

Georgia Center for Nonprofits works to build thriving communities by helping nonprofits succeed. through a powerful mix of advocacy, solutions for nonprofit effectiveness, and insight building tools, GCN provides nonprofits, board members and donors with the tools they need to strengthen organizations that make a difference on important causes throughout Georgia.

 

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Greetings! My name is Dayna S. Alexander, and I’m in the Evaluation Fellowship Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Division of Reproductive Health (DRH). The Evaluation Fellowship Program, coordinated via the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), is in its 6th year, hosts 20 Fellows per year for 2-year engagements, and is one of the main ways evaluation capacity is built for CDC programs. Let me share the history of CDC and information about evaluation and CDC.

In the United States, the Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA) was established in 1942 to control malaria around military training bases. Concluding World War II, Dr. Joseph W. Mountin envisioned an agency that would support state and local health agencies in investigating and controlling communicable disease outbreaks. In 1946, the MCWA then became the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) targeting malaria, typhus, and other infectious diseases. It was decided that the CDC should be located in Atlanta, Georgia because the South had the most malaria transmissions. Throughout the years, minor changes have been made to the name; yet, the initials (CDC) have remained the same. CDC celebrates its 70th Anniversary this year, 2016.

Currently, the CDC is known as the nation’ s leading public health agency focusing on five strategic areas including the following: supporting state and local health departments, improving global health, implementing measures to decrease leading causes of death, strengthening surveillance and epidemiology, and reforming health policies. At the CDC, program evaluation supports the five strategic areas, through efforts of CDC programs, and, often, through agreements with partners at the state and community level.

Rad Resource: CDC’s Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health, which just celebrated its 17th anniversary, provides a set of steps and standards for effective and practical program evaluations. While the focus is on public health programs, the approach has been generalized to any evaluation effort.

Rad Resource: Besides overseeing the Evaluation Fellowship Program. CDC’s Program Performance and Evaluation Office (PPEO) sets standards and expectations for agency-wide evaluation, delivers tools, technical assistance and resources to enhance evaluation efforts, and provides support for evaluation capacity-building across CDC programs and external partners.

Lesson Learned: If there are any core principles underlying CDC’s approach, it is the idea of utility or utilization-focused evaluation. Evaluation, rather than being a set of specific methods, needs to be right-sized to meet the needs of the user and the situation in which the evaluation is being conducted. This is how we ensure that evaluation findings are used for program improvement.

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

 

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Hello again! We are Linda Vo-Green, Krista Collins and Lindsey Barranco of the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association (AaEA), and your chairs for the Local Arrangements Working Group for Evaluation 2016 in Atlanta. This week we want to help you prepare for your trip and get excited about all the things Atlanta has to offer!

AAEA

Hot Tip: The easiest and cheapest way to get downtown from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is to hop on MARTA, Atlanta’s public transportation system. From the airport, take the Red or Gold line going Northbound, and for $2.50 you will be at Peachtree Center, located inside the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in 18 minutes. In fact, a lot of Atlanta’s main attractions can be conveniently reached by travelling on MARTA! If the subway is not for you, grab a shuttle, taxi or Uber at the airport for your convenience.

Stay near the hotel and explore different activities near Peachtree Center, the Georgia Dome, the Georgia World Congress Center, Phillips Arena and CNN:

  • Centennial Olympic Park: A legacy to the 1996 Summer Olympics, Centennial Park is a 21-acre outdoor park in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Time it right and see the interactive Fountain of Rings show! There are a number of amazing attractions around the park as well including the largest aquarium in the Western hemisphere – the Georgia Aquarium. Right next door is, the World of Coca-Cola, the CNN Center, and nearby, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
  • Atlanta Movie Tours: Atlanta is quickly becoming the Hollywood of the South! Sign-up for a movie tour and see where fan favorites like The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games are filmed.

Go north towards Midtown, to North and Arts Center to get a taste of Atlanta’s cultural scene:

Interested in more educational activities? Head out to Decatur or Buckhead:

  • Step back in time Fernbank Museum of Natural History and enjoy award-winning exhibits, IMAX movies and interactive experiences
  • Stop by the Atlanta History Center to learn about southern traditions and culture, spanning centuries from early settlers, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, to the current urban metropolis Atlanta is today.

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

Hello! My name is Dana Keener Mast. I am a senior manager at ICF International in our Atlanta office. ICF is currently working with the Healthcare Georgia Foundation to conduct a multi-year, multi-site evaluation of their childhood obesity prevention program. As part of this project, ICF provides ongoing evaluation technical assistance to four Georgia community grantees working diligently to improve policies and environments that make it easier for people to make healthier choices. My team at ICF for this project includes Carole Harris, Cathy Lesesne, Thearis Osuji, Stacey Willocks, Toni DeWeese, and Shelby Cash.

Lesson Learned: Measuring change over time in environments and policies is challenging! Many factors, other than the “intervention,” can influence environmental and policy outcomes—many of which are beyond the control of any one person or organization. Second, numerous steps typically need to occur to achieve a particular change in a policy or environment, and those steps may not be linear or stepwise.

Hot Tip: When evaluating environmental and policy outcomes, use a process that can document interim steps, progress, setbacks, and achievements that occur over time. Early in the project, we worked with each grantee to define the milestones they needed to achieve in order to reach their desired environmental and/or policy outcomes. Once every quarter, our team reviews and documents their progress on those milestones. This allows us to capture and report significant progress achieved over time, even if the ultimate outcomes don’t turn out exactly as intended. This process also helps the grantees identify challenges and struggles they need to overcome (or work around) to keep the process moving towards their goals.

I look forward to seeing you here in Atlanta this October at AEA!

While you are in Atlanta! Speaking of transformative and healthy environments, be sure to take some time to walk, run, or bike on the Atlanta Beltline while you are here. The Atlanta Beltline is touted as the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwL2E0i_kIM

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

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Hi! We are Krista Collins, Director of Strategy & Innovation at Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), and Mike Armstrong, Vice President of Club Operations and Evaluation at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta (BGCMA). Together we seek to understand how our professional development courses and youth programs work in tandem to support the 58,000 staff members in local communities and across the nation that create opportunities for approximately 4 million youth each year to achieve great futures through our priority focus on Academic Success, Good Character and Citizenship, and Healthy Lifestyles.

Since 2011, BGCA has conducted the annual National Youth Outcomes Initiative (NYOI) to measure how effectively the Club experience is being implemented and its’ impact on our members. Built on research-informed indicators of youth achievement that align with our priority outcomes, and benchmarked against other leading national youth surveys, NYOI data is used to drive continuous quality improvement efforts and communicate our impact to key stakeholders across the youth development field.

Rad Resource: Looking for comparison data to understand the impact of youth development programs? Download our 2015 National Outcomes Report: Measuring the Impact of Boys & Girls Clubs. A few highlights from our report:

  • 74% of members aged 12-17 who attend the Club regularly say they earn mostly A’s and B’s, compared to 67% of youth nationally.
  • By 12th Grade, Club members’ rate of monthly volunteering is more than double that of the national average for same-grade peers.
  • Teens who stay connected to the Club as they get older seem better able to resist high-risk behaviors than teens nationally at the same ages.

Hot Tip: Sharing Club-level results and training on data-utilization promotes survey participation

In four years the number of NYOI participants has grown from 2,800 Club members to 165,000 – that is an increase of almost 6000%! Much of this growth can be attributed to BGCA’s efforts to demonstrate the value of data to local Clubs. BGCA prepares reports for each participating Club organization, and provides local trainings and consultations to ensure that the results are interpreted correctly and used to drive improvement.

Hot Tip: Data-utilization requires learning that is strategic and intentional.

To fully realize the value that formal measurement and evaluation brings, local clubs have employed continuous quality improvement systems that integrate knowledge generation and decision-making at all levels of their organization. Decision making that affects everything from resource allocation at the corporate level to programmatic foci and staff assignments at the club-site level only occurs if a formal and iterative process of reflection and dialogue practiced.

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

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We are Valerie Hutcherson and Rebekah Hudgins, Research and Evaluation Consultants with the Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) (gafcp.org). Started with 15 communities in 1991, Family Connection is the only statewide network of its kind in the nation with collaboratives in all 159 counties dedicated to the health and well-being of families and communities. Through local collaboratives, partners are brought together to identify critical issues facing the community and to develop and implement strategies to improve outcomes for children and families. The GaFCP strongly believes that collaboration and collective effort yield collective impact. Evaluation has always been a significant part of Family Connection, though capacity within each local collaborative greatly differs.

In 2013, GaFCP invited 6 counties to participate in a cohort focused on early childhood health and education (EC-HEED) using the Developmental Evaluation (DE) framework developed by Michael Quinn Patton. (Patton, 2011. Developmental Evaluation: Applying Complexity Concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use). Each county was identified by GaFCP based on need and interest in developing a EC-HEED strategy and had the autonomy to identify collaborative partners, programs and activities to create a strategy tailored to meet the needs and resources of the county. As evaluators we recognized the collaborative and their strategy formation as existing in a complex system with multiple partners and no single model to follow. The DE approach was the best fit for capturing data on the complexity of the collaborative process in developing and implementing their strategies. DE allows for and encourages innovation which is a cornerstone of the Family Connection Collaborative model. Further, this cohort work gave us, as evaluation consultants, the unique opportunity to implement an evaluation system that recognized that understanding this complexity and innovation was as important as collecting child and family outcome data. With DE, the evaluator’s primary functions are to elucidate the innovation and adaptation processes, track their implications and results, and facilitate ongoing, real-time, data-based decision-making. Using this approach, we were able to engage in and document the decision making process, the complexity of the relationships among partners and how those interactions impact the work.

Lessons Learned: Just a few of the lessons we’ve learned are:

  1. Participants using a DE approach may not recognize real-time feedback and evaluation support as “evaluation”. Efforts must be taken throughout the project to clarify the role of evaluation as an integral part of the work.
  2. Successful DE evaluation in a collaborative setting requires attention to the needs of individual partners and organizations.
  3. The DE evaluator is part anthropologist thus is required to be comfortable in the emic-etic (insider-outsider) role as a member of the team as well as one involved in elucidating the practice and work of the team.

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

My name is Jenn Ballentine and I am the President of Highland Nonprofit Consulting, LLC, an independent evaluation consulting firm based in Atlanta, GA.

So you’re thinking about becoming an independent consultant in Atlanta but you’re not sure how to get started. Don’t fear -help is near! The Atlanta Evaluators Consultants Network (AECN) is a newly formed group of local, evaluation consultants with varying backgrounds and areas of expertise. The network meets regularly to share and discuss evaluation and business-related strategies, tips and ideas and to determine how best we can collectively address the major challenges and issues facing the nonprofit and grant making communities here in Atlanta.

Lesson Learned: Atlanta is home to many national, regional and local nonprofits and prominent Foundations and many evaluation firms and independent consultants. Being an independent evaluation consultant in Atlanta can be challenging but rewarding. The key to success is developing strong relationships, working collaboratively to identify shared goals and objectives, continually communicating with clients, and maintaining a flexible and responsive approach.

Hot Tips:

  1. Collaborate with other independent evaluators. While working by yourself is nice, collaborating with other independent consultants allows you to gain new knowledge and skills and can increase your ability to secure additional (and often larger) contracts. Attend local AEA meetings, join the AECN at https://atlantaevaluators.squarespace.com/ and connect with other consultants in your area. Be selective about who you work with – remember your name is on the line!
  2. Take advantage of in-person trainings and professional learning opportunities. While it is much easier in today’s digital age to participate in trainings and seminars via webinar, attending in person can yield networking opportunities and new connections that would otherwise not be realized. So get out of your pajamas and out of the house!
  3. Always think about how you can add value. Identify the challenges facing your potential clients and determine how you can help them address and overcome these issues. Share relevant research and information about funding opportunities you think might be a good fit with your clients. Your clients will appreciate it and may even ask you to serve as the evaluator if funded – woohoo!
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Utilize resources such as those at http://www.georgiaerc.org. Develop and/or find existing templates and tools that you can adapt. This not only saves time but allows for greater continuity in your practice. Work smarter, not harder!

Starting and maintaining your own business takes time, patience and perseverance. The AECN and the Atlanta-area Evaluation Association are great resources for learning, networking and collaborating. Independent consulting is not a solitary practice – connect with others and be prepared to reap the benefits – both personally and professionally!

We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2016 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

 

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