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19 posts from February 2013

5 Questions for…Cheryl Dorsey, President, Echoing Green

February 27, 2013

Social innovation and entrepreneurship are two of the most powerful tools available to those committed to black male achievement. So argued Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, a global social venture fund based in New York City, at the Innovation and Impact Forum hosted by the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement last October. In part, added Dorsey, that's because they have captured the attention of, and increasingly are being driven by, a millennial generation interested in a networked, technology-enabled model of social change.

In 2012, Echoing Green partnered with OSF to launch the Black Male Achievement Fellowships and announced the first cohort of BMA fellows in June. Earlier this month, the organization announced the 2013 semi-finalists for both the Echoing Green and Black Male Achievement Fellowships.

Recently, PND spoke with Dorsey about the BMA fellowship program, her own experience as a social entrepreneur, and the role of public policy in the field of black male achievement.

Headshot_cheryl_dorsey_echoingPhilanthropy News Digest: What did you think of President Obama's State of the Union Address?

Cheryl Dorsey: I think the president's address presented a call for effective collaboration to solve crucial problems in our country. Many people make it their life's work to try to solve tough problems, from engineers working to create microchips that are smaller but carry more information to community bankers seeking to provide greater access to capital and teachers seeking to help more children in the classroom move ahead. President Obama's State of the Union address was a call for those who are on this path of enterprise, service, and innovation to work together.

These are the principles at the heart of the work of our fellows, who strive every day to solve some of the challenges and problems the president laid out in his speech. When the president talks about reducing the cost of solar energy, I think about 2012 Black Male Achievement Fellow Donnel Baird, who is doing important work to make clean energy accessible to all communities, especially low-income communities. When the president talks about expanding service opportunities for young people, I think about Echoing Green alums like Wendy Kopp, Alan Khazei, and Michael Brown, visionary leaders of the national service movement. The State of the Union address made me think about how Echoing Green can continue to support our fellows who are out there on the front lines in communities across the country and around the world.

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Closing the Achievement Gap for African-American Males: An Economic Imperative

February 26, 2013

(Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and CEO of PolicyLink, an Oakland-based national research and action institute working to advance economic and social equity. She currently serves on the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is a co-author, with Stewart Kwoh and Manuel Pastor, of Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America's Future.)

Headshot_angela-glover-blackwellIn the United States, a black public school student is suspended every four seconds, while every 27 seconds a black high school student drops out of school. Black students are also 3.5 times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled. Within this group, black male students fare the worst.

At PolicyLink, our mission is to achieve equity by "Lifting Up What Works." We find innovations and strategies that expand opportunity and, working with local partners, get what's working into policy so that effective innovations are more widely disseminated. We are particularly inspired by the strategies being employed by the Oakland Unified School District, where in 2008-09 only 49 percent of black males graduated, compared with 72 percent of white males and 61 percent district-wide, and where 18 percent of African-American males were expelled at least once, compared with 3 percent of white male students and 8 percent of students district-wide.

In response to those disturbing numbers, OUSD opened an Office of African American Male Achievement (AAMA) in 2010. With funding from Atlantic Philanthropies, the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, the California Endowment, and Kaiser Permanente, AAMA is working to change educational outcomes for young men of color -- and in the district as a whole -- in innovative ways. For instance, many Oakland high schools and middle schools now offer Manhood Development Classes, in which African-American men from the community teach skills designed to help students navigate the conflicting value systems they experience in different areas of their lives. Family and parent summits at each school include "data walks" where parents and kids are provided with charts detailing educational outcomes at the school as well as where the gaps in access and learning occur. And those efforts are bearing fruit: in 2012 the U.S. Department of Education announced a voluntary resolution of the compliance review initiated against OUSD regarding the disproportionate harshness and frequency of disciplinary measures meted out to African-American students. The district has even been cited as a model for other districts across the country due to its intense efforts to improve in this area.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 23-24, 2013)

February 24, 2013

Oscar_statueOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, NTEN's Katya Andresen looks at new data from eMarketer.com that confirms what a lot of us already know: Nonprofits have been quick to adopt social media.


"It is imperative that women of color invest in young girls through volunteering and mentoring to ensure the success of our younger generation," writes Shae Harris on the Washington Area Women's Foundation blog. "Use this Black History Month to begin or continue 'paying it forward.' Our girls are counting on you."


In a post on her blog, Beth Kanter, co-author most recently of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, considers the difference between being data informed and data driven. "The term 'data-driven' has been used to describe organizations that rely solely on cold hard data to make decisions. Being data-driven sounds great -- in theory. But, because it doesn't acknowledge the importance of basing decisions on multiple information sources, it can doom an organization to epic failures," Kanter writes. Data informed, on the other hand, "describes agile, responsive, and intelligent businesses that are better able to succeed in a rapidly changing environment....Data-informed cultures are not slaves to their data."

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[Infographic] Hunger in America

February 23, 2013

This week's infographic, courtesy of Feeding America and Upworthy, expands on last week's theme, disparities in diet-related diseases in NYC, to illustrate the growing problem of hunger in America.

That so much want exists amidst so much plenty will come as a surprise to many. And yet, as David Nasby, a former vice president of the General Mills Foundation and founder of the nation's first food bank network, noted in a speech a few years ago: "Tonight, thousands of your neighbors will go to bed hungry. It may be your child's schoolmate who is undernourished and has difficulty learning on an empty stomach. Or it could be a co-worker, a working mother whose low-wage job doesn't make ends meet. Perhaps it's an elderly neighbor who has to make a decision whether to delay filling a prescription or buying groceries. The faces of hunger are as broad as the faces of America."


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5 Questions for...Melissa Bradley, Chief Executive Officer, Tides

February 22, 2013

Created in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson, who designated the second week of February as "Negro History Week," Black History Month today serves as a reminder of the challenges and triumphs of the African diaspora in the United States and around the globe.

"Despite [Woodson's] original intentions and the federal expansion of the week into a month, critics rightly argue that African Americans and other people of color are still viewed as the exception to the majority white rule, and that this marginalization continues to be pervasive," argues Tides CEO Melissa Bradley on the organization's What's Possible blog. "We must fully embrace that this 'exception' of race is the rule -- as data shows -- and more justly distribute resources and elevate opportunities to pursue true equity."

Bradley joined the San Francisco-based organization as CEO in 2010 and, over the last few years, has helped boost its capacity to facilitate African-American donor engagement and support of African-American communities through a variety of programs. One such program, 21CF Powered by Tides, engages philanthropists and community leaders to address the opportunities and challenges facing African Americans and "new majority communities" globally.

Recently, PND interviewed Bradley about the program, Tides' work in the impact investing space, and philanthropy's support for human rights/racial justice initiatives.

Melissa Bradley, CEO, TidesPhilanthropy News Digest: Tell us about the Twenty-First Century Foundation Powered by Tides program. How did it come about? And how does it support Tides' stated goal of "scaling the growth of African American donors and supporting new majority communities that are lacking financial and social capital"?

Melissa Bradley: Before moving back to Washington, D.C., in 2004, I lived in Harlem, where I became very familiar with the Twenty-First Century Foundation, which at the time was working independently to encourage strategic giving for change in the African-American community, as well as many of its grantees in the neighborhood. I even volunteered at one of them. So I was a longstanding supporter of and contributor to the organization before it joined the Tides Network last year.

Like many other intermediary foundations focused on addressing the needs of one group or subset of the general population, 21CF’s business model was contingent on large private foundations giving smaller public foundations money that they would then re-grant. Once 21CF realized there was a disconnect between the availability of funds and its growth prospects, we started talking about how Tides could be of help.

For us, the merger was more about being able to preserve the history and relationships 21CF had forged, both within the African-American community and also beyond California. I think the majority of people assume that most of Tides' work is done in California. But we actually have a national presence, including an office and building that we co-own in New York City, as well as an office in Washington, D.C. So the merger was an opportunity for us to expand our geographic footprint among donors and doers in New York and around the country.

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Board Compensation in Grantmaking Foundations: Reasonable and Necessary?

February 20, 2013

(Mark Hager is associate professor of nonprofit studies in the School of Community Resources and Development at Arizona State University. This post originally appeared on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog.)

Headshot_mark_hagerTradition dictates that board members work for free in most quarters of the nonprofit sector, but that isn't necessarily true for grantmaking foundations, especially independent ones. In a new paper (free access until late March) published in Public Integrity, the ethics journal sponsored by the American Society of Public Administration, Elizabeth Boris and I consider the question of what varieties of grantmaking foundations compensate their board members for governance duties. It reboots and reframes an earlier analysis conducted by the Urban Institute, the Foundation Center, and GuideStar.

In the paper, we point to several interesting examples, including a very large foundation's generous policy of trustee compensation spelled out in its organizing documents, another with seven-figure annual compensation paid to a bank to act as a very part time "institutional trustee," and another that underwent IRS investigation for eye-popping compensation that essentially amounted to trustees looting a charitable trust. These cases aren't typical, but they are part of the big picture of how work gets done in grantmaking foundations and how much insiders get paid to do it. In more typical cases, foundations might have justifiable reasons to compensate board members, including to ensure representation from beneficiary populations or to extend health insurance benefits to family founders. It's the extreme cases, however, that threaten to color all of philanthropy.

Compensation for governance duties is perfectly legal, so long as it falls under the IRS' broad standard of "reasonable and necessary." The practice is pretty rare in community foundations, partly due to the fact that they rely so heavily on public contributions and are therefore subject to public scrutiny. It also appears to be fairly rare in corporate foundations, but that may largely be due to the fact that many corporate foundation trustees get paid as corporate executives, making their compensation invisible on the foundation side. About one in five independent foundations, however, appear to report compensation of their board members for governance duties, as reported on Form 990-PF.

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What We Value

February 19, 2013

(Mark Rosenman is an emeritus professor at the Union Institute & University and directs Caring to Change, an initiative that seeks to improve how foundations serve the public. In his last post, he wrote about accountability -- or the lack thereof -- in government, business, and the nonprofit sector.)

Rosenman_headshotIn his State of the Union address, President Obama called for government-provided student financial aid to somehow be tied to the value of the education which it helps underwrite. While it's an interesting idea, it presents a challenge not only to institutions of higher education, but to every nonprofit organization in the country. Put simply, who gets to measure the value of any charitable program? Who gets to stipulate their purposes and assess their performance and the outcomes they deliver?

Although such data are not readily available, we know that the White House believes that how well a particular college or university's graduates do in the job market after graduation ought to be a part of a "college scorecard." We also know that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who gave the Republican rebuttal to the president's State of the Union address, feels even more strongly about the idea and has joined with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to push The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, which requires colleges and universities to provide detailed information to prospective students about how much one can expect to make in any given field post-graduation.

Given the state of the economy and students' understandable concerns about their futures, that makes a lot of sense, practically and politically. But should that be the principal measure of the value of higher education? When did we decide that the value of an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree should be quantified and measured in vocational education terms? And who decided it?

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 16-17, 2013)

February 17, 2013

Presidents-Day2013Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Arts and Culture

On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, James Irvine Foundation president and CEO Jim Canales discusses the foundation's new arts strategy, which has received both positive and negative feedback from the nonprofit community. "I admire those who have stepped forward to criticize aspects of our strategy, whether they believe it is wrong on its merits or they view it as yet another example of 'strategic philanthropy' gone awry, where we are dictating and imposing our solutions upon the field," writes Canales. "That is certainly not out intention.

What is different for us in our new Arts strategy is that rather than continuing with a broad-based approach that funded projects across multiple objectives, we made the strategic decision to direct our finite resources in a way that, in our view, will best position the arts field for future viability and success. In doing so, we are openly expressing a point of view about how we think the field must evolve to ensure its dynamism and relevance. Yet, we are very clear about our willingness to learn with our partners in this effort, to refine our approach accordingly, and to help to advance the field's understanding of the many ways to engage a broader cross-section of Californians (in our case) in the arts....

So, please keep the ideas, observations and critiques coming. It's the best way to ensure we can achieve the end we all agree upon: a vibrant, relevant and successful arts field....


The Mertz Gilmore Foundation and NYU Wagner's Research Center for Leadership in Action have issued a new report, Beyond Foundation Funding: Revenue-Generating Strategies for Sustainable Social Change (84 pages, PDF), that's designed to aid social change organizations, funders, and technical assistance providers in discussing and implementing different fundraising and revenue-generating practices.

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks has a few choice words for fundraising consultants who show up at sector conferences with slick PowerPoint presentations designed to shame attendees into contracting their services, but who never, ever reveal whether the campaigns they are so proud of creating actually worked or not.

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[Infographic] Healthy Food and Community Change in NYC

February 16, 2013

On Thursday, the New York City-based Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund launched its Healthy Food & Community Change initiative with a commitment of $15 million over five years for healthy food programs across the city.

As the fund-created infographic below illustrates, there are vast disparities in diet-related diseases across New York City. The initiative aims to address these disparities by supporting strategies designed to increase the availability, affordability, and knowledge of healthy foods while promoting healthy food choices in high-need neighborhoods.

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Steve Goldberg: 'SIBs Are Here to Stay'

February 14, 2013

McKinsey_SIB_ReportI don't always agree with Steve Goldberg, but I admire his ability to say what he means and to say it well. Earlier this week, Goldberg, the author of Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn't Advance Social Progress and a vocal proponent of social impact bonds (also known as pay-for-success bonds), posted a long rebuttal to a post by Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, in which Pratt suggested that the two main claims for SIBs, more resources and better results, are "admirable but dreamy."

I'm not going to get into the details of Pratt's argument or Goldberg's counter-argument (you should definitely take the time to read both). I was struck, however, by Goldberg's assertion that the "real reason" SIBs are here to stay is because "Government is out of money and out of breath" (a phrase he credits to Sir Ronald Cohen, a "founding father of social investing"). Goldberg continues:

We are enmeshed in a long-term fiscal and economic crisis that will increase the need, but decrease the funding, for effective social services long after unemployment returns to normal levels. This is a "new normal" of government retrenchment, rising inequality and decreasing social mobility to which we have not yet adjusted. The safety net ain't what it used to be, plus we can’t afford it.

While there are many encouraging trends in social sector innovation, as well as room for improvement, beleaguered nonprofits are in no position to take up the slack left by an eroding public sector. They don't just, as Mr. Pratt puts it, "frequently feel under-compensated, need more resources, and blame their limited success on lack of funding," they are under-compensated, in need of more resources and held back by a chronic and worsening lack of funding. Nonprofits are fighting a holding action that they can't win over the long term. They, too, haven't figured out how to cope with the new normal....

Now, Steve Goldberg isn't the first person to make this argument, and he won't be the last. But if denial is a river in Egypt, then many nonprofits are ill prepared for what's coming.

What do you think? Was the Great Recession merely a prelude to a "new normal" characterized by government retrenchment, reduced funding, and lowered expectations? Are most nonprofits prepared for such a reality? Will SIBs gain traction as more traditional funding sources dry up? And what do you think the sector will look like a decade from now? Use the comments section to share your thoughts....

Interested in learning more about the pay-for-success model? As part of its social innovation work, McKinsey has put together a nice package of resources, including the 2012 report From Potential to Action: Bringing Social Impact Bonds to the U.S., an animated video that introduces the topic of SIBs, and an introductory article that describes the SIBs landscape. Well worth checking out...

-- Mitch Nauffts

Survey: The State of Social Sector Leadership

February 12, 2013

Change_buttonAnyone in a position of leadership these days understands that organizations have a choice: disrupt or be disrupted. That's as true for nonprofits, foundations, public private partnerships, and social enterprises as it is for profit-seeking businesses.

To better understand how social sector leadership is changing, McKinsey & Company is inviting social sector leaders to participate in an online survey.

Among other things, the management consulting firm is interested in learning more about the attributes of high-performing social sector leaders -- what do they, and the peers they admire, excel in -- and how do they think their job descriptions will change over the next five to ten years. The firm also is interested in learning whether the sector is walking the talk when it comes to collaboration -- are social sector leaders committing their organizations to multi-stakeholder partnerships where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and attribution and credit are shared -- or is their primary focus still on fundraising and media coverage for their organizations.

As Laura Callanan, who leads McKinsey’s Learning for Social Impact (LSI) initiative, notes: "There are a number of key trends affecting the social sector environment today which require successful leaders to have different strengths from what was important in the past. The social sector is a dynamic environment and a lot happens over a ten-year period." We couldn't agree more.

McKinsey will be sharing the results of the survey -- in the context of a broader "landscaping" it has developed on the state of funding, resources, and research on social sector leadership -- with all who participate later in the year.

To take the survey, click here.

Rules to Communicate By

February 11, 2013

Darts_bullseyeAs former foundation CEO Martin Teitel reminds us in The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants, success in grantseeking boils down to two things: great organizations doing great work; and effective communications.

What does the latter entail? Teitel offers these three easy-to-follow rules:

Be Clear

  • Eliminate jargon
  • Write for your real (as opposed to imagined) audience -- i.e., funders who don't know your organization that well
  • Leave out the math and formulas

Be Concise

  • Not one word more than the length specified in the funder's guidelines
  • Use a spear, not a club -- i.e., make your point and move on
  • Revise, revise, revise

Be Compelling

  • Share your enthusiasm for the work you and your colleagues are doing
  • Base your request for funding on facts, not hopes or wishes
  • Put your organization's story at the center of your appeal

Sound advice. What would you add to the list? Use the comments section to share your thoughts....

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (February 9-10, 2013)

February 10, 2013

Storm-nemoOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


Guest blogging on the GuideStar blog, Big Duck founder Sarah Durham shares three fundraising trends that gained traction in 2012 -- more sophisticated data collection and analysis, greater use of social media by nonprofit executives to engage with constituents, and more effective use of online technologies -- and suggests three things that nonprofits should add to their to-do lists in 2013: collect AND analyze data, "open up," and act fast when a crisis strikes.


On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Ellie Buteau discusses the organization's new Room for Improvement report, which found that funders often request performance information that is more useful for them than it is for their grantees. "More than half the nonprofit leaders we surveyed agreed that funders care more about performance information that is useful to the foundations than information that is useful to the grantees. Only 28 percent of nonprofit leaders disagree with this sentiment," writes Buteau. "Not surprisingly, the more strongly nonprofits believe funders are prioritizing their own data needs over nonprofits', the less helpful they find their funders to be to their organizations’ ability to assess its progress."

Steve Lohr has an interesting post on the New York Times' Bits blog about the etymological origins of the term "big data."

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From Global to Local: Partnerships Are Critical to Success

February 08, 2013

(Nancy E. Roman is president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, which she joined in January 2013 after serving as director of public/private partnerships and communications at the United Nations' World Food Programme. Prior to joining WFP, Roman was vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.)

Headshot_nancy_romanMoving from a job with the World Food Programme -- the world's largest humanitarian agency -- to the Capital Area Food Bank, a local NGO, has afforded me a bright-line look at the advantages and challenges of global versus local. The global humanitarian arena allows for scale but little flexibility or agility. The local environment allows for just the reverse: we move swiftly, like a speedboat, toward the problem but must depend on others to scale up our best solutions and practices. But one common theme emerges for both: the importance of partnerships.

Whether tackling hunger or clean water, disease eradication, literacy, or social justice, solutions to the great humanitarian and social problems of our day have eluded us. Both global and local hunger persist, despite the heroic efforts of many. And from both global and local vantage points, it becomes ever clearer that we urgently need to collaborate more effectively with our partners to meet the challenges we face.

For millennia, the human race has been finding ways to help others in need. But addressing social problems through agencies designed and built to tackle particular problems is a relatively new phenomenon. The International Committee of the Red Cross, founded in 1863, is one of the earliest. United Nations organizations such as UNICEF and the WFP are but fifty years old. Many of the largest and best-known NGOs are even more recent players. Founded in 1980, the Capital Area Food Bank was created to end hunger in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Unfortunately, over the last thirty-three years, the need has not diminished. Poverty is on the rise, in our region and nationally. Indeed, we have witnessed a 25 percent increase in hunger since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008. Today, more than 680,000 individuals, including 200,000 children, in the District of Columbia, northern Virginia, and Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland look to us for help. And while the ranks of the working poor are growing, the middle class is also under stress, as many people who have never needed emergency food services find themselves at the doors of our neighborhood partner agencies and food pantries, which depend on CAFB for food and household items.

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Investing for Impact: Conservation and Environmental Restoration Through Mitigation Banking

February 07, 2013

(Ashley M. Allen is a founder and managing partner of i2 Capital Group, a merchant banking firm focused on impact investments in the energy and natural resource, education, and health sectors.)

Img-habitat-banking-gaining-groundIn industrial and post-industrial economies around the world, economic development has often come at the expense of the natural environment. Over the coming decades, the United States will experience significant negative impacts to ecosystems and watersheds from energy development, infrastructure build out, and urbanization. Growing demand for low-carbon electricity and biofuel production is likely to involve large amounts of publicly and privately owned land, while energy developers anticipate drilling tens of thousands of oil and gas wells across more than two million acres of leased land. Against this backdrop, the implementation and expansion of effective habitat conservation and mitigation practices and policies has the potential to dramatically reduce and offset many of the less desirable impacts associated with this kind of development, thereby helping to create a sustainable economy in which economic development and conservation are valued and promoted.

Habitat Mitigation

Habitat mitigation is the practice of avoiding, minimizing, or offsetting negative impacts on natural habitats and wildlife from energy and other development activities. In the U.S., the Clean Water Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), and the National Environmental Policy Act (1969) together form the policy underpinnings for environmental mitigation activities. As defined by the Council on Environmental Quality, mitigation includes: (a) avoiding negative impacts altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action; (b) minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation; (c) rectifying negative impacts by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the affected environment; (d) reducing or eliminating impacts over time by maintaining mitigation activities over the life of the action; and (e) compensating for negative impacts by replacing or providing substitute resources/habitats (compensatory mitigation).

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Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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