Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Good Indicators Guide

The Good Indicators Guide:
Understanding how to use and choose indicators

UK NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, 2008

Available online as PDF file [40p.] at:

“…..This guide is intended to be a short, practical resource for anyone in any health system who is responsible for using indicators to monitor and improve performance, systems or outcomes.


1. Introduction
2. Indicators: some useful background
3. The anatomy of an indicator
4. Understanding variation
5. Changing hearts and minds
6. Frequently asked questions
7. Criteria for good indicators and good indicator sets
8. Ten myths about indicators
9. Glossary
10. Further reading
Appendix A: Full anatomy of an indicator

* * * *
This message provided from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO/WHO

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Google Visualization API Released

This is what we've been waiting for ever since Google bought Gapminder. Here's the report from the information aethetics blog:

a new Google Visualization API, based on the powerful visualization techniques from GapMinder. the API is "designed to make it easier for a wide audience to make use of advanced visualization technology, & do so in a way that makes it quick and easy to integrate with new visualizations."
next to the classical methods, the amount of new visualization techniques is quite impressive & include motion charts (a la Gapminder), flashy 3D funnels, pyramids, pie & donuts, time series charts (a la Google Finance), data gauges, geographical heat maps & Gantt charts.

this launch is simultaneous with a recent announcement ( from the Google Docs team, who have added support for gadgets & the Visualization API in spreadsheets. this includes a set of gadgets created by Google & several other companies, including some that add pivoting, grouping, & other new visual functionalities.

will this shape the future of data visualization online? if so, how?

[link: (visualization API) & (visualization gallery) & (Panorama software blog)via & arstechnica.comthnkx Juan Pablo & Ali]
see also
iGoogle gadgets & Google chart API.

I am way psyched about the possibilities, and hope you are too.

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Arts and Culture Indicator Project Launches New Website

Notes from NNIP:

ACIP recently launched a new website ( ) as a resource for those interested in developing indicators on arts and cultural vitality, including artists, researchers, community leaders, community development practitioners, and arts administrators and funders. Visitors of the site will find extensive information on indicators of cultural vitality, which ACIP defines as the practice of creating, disseminating, validating and supporting the arts and culture as a dimension of everyday community life and conditions.

The Arts and Culture Indicator Project (ACIP) has operated in conjunction with the National Neighborhood Indicator Partnership (NNIP) since the late 1990s. ACIP promotes the idea that having information about the presence and effects of arts and culture in communities can help policymakers and community members make better decisions for neighborhoods and cities. As Maria Rosario Jackson, director of ACIP, notes, "You cannot adequately grasp the experience of race and ethnicity or socio-economic status without some understanding of a community's cultural expression. The demographic figures on communities tell only a limited part of the story. You also have to understand the cultural expression of the community to get at the heart of it". ACIP has shown that information on the presence of arts and culture in communities can help shape many areas of policy, including economic development, education, and transportation.
ACIP collaborates with local affiliates on cultural vitality indicators work in seven cities across the country. Five of the seven affiliates, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., are NNIP partners. Other affiliates include the Great Valley Center, located in Central Valley, CA, and the Active Arts Initiative at the Los Angeles County Music Center. The ACIP Affiliates page highlights the affiliates and the work in their local communities.

Resources The website provides many resources for individuals and organizations interested in creating, interpreting, and using cultural vitality indicators in their communities and neighborhoods. The web site includes the following sections:

Cultural Vitality Defined: This section offers a definition of cultural vitality, recommends areas of measurement, and discusses the far-reaching impact these indicators can have on various types of policy, including education, public safety, economic development, health, and civic engagement.

ACIP Reader: The Reader lists research and publications on arts and culture indicators, covering both the conceptual framework and practical applications. It also documents the national data sources from which one can develop comparable arts and culture indicators.

Case Examples: Here you can learn about communities in the United States where cultural vitality indicators are being used to inform planning and policymaking in various policy areas. Presently, the case example on the ACIP site highlights California's San Joaquin Valley use of arts and culture indicators for the improvement of the 250-mile stretch of Route 99.
Further additions to the site will be made soon, including updated city rankings based on nationally comparable data and examples of how cultural vitality indicators can be derived from unlikely local data sources, including police, school district, or economic development data.

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Upcoming MCH Epidemiology Training

More information to share:


Upcoming MCH Epidemiology Training
Click Here to Apply
Click Here for an Overview

The MCHB and CDC are offering a Training Course in MCH Epidemiology as part of their ongoing effort to enhance the analytic capacity of state and local health agencies. The training this year will be held in Chicago from June 2-7.

This national program is aimed primarily at professionals in state and local health departments who have significant responsibility for collecting, processing, analyzing, and reporting maternal and child health data. Faculty working with state MCH departments are also eligible for the course.

The training curriculum is designed to build conceptual, technical, and analytic skills for using data effectively, and focuses on applications that are relevant to the day-to-day work of participants. The curriculum is designed for trainees with moderately advanced epidemiology and statistical training and applied experience. The training combines an intensive five-day program emphasizing hands-on data analysis experience, with additional access to core faculty for short-term consultation until September 30, 2008. MCHB will pay for the hotel and per diem costs of trainees. A limited number of scholarships for airfare are available.

The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health Web site features an easy-to-use interactive data query that allows users to search, view and compare National Survey of Children's Health and National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs results at state, regional and national levels, stratified by selected demographic characteristics including age, race, household income, insurance type, special health care needs status and more.

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US Department of Education Publications

Some more information to pass along to anyone interested in education data and other information:

As a valued customer of ED Pubs, we are sending you this email to let you know of our recently redesigned web site,

In an effort to serve you better, the U.S. Department of Education's ED Pubs (Education Publications) web site has undergone an extensive redesign. The web site combines bold colors, strong lines and a greater amount of “white space” to give it an eye-catching, modern look. The shopping process has been improved by adopting the latest in eCommerce "shopping carts," making it easier to order publications and provide concise, accurate shipping information. The capabilities of "your account" have been extended to realize a more user-friendly environment tailored to your preferences. Please visit us at to see for yourself. If you had previously registered on the site, no need to re-register, your user name and password will work and your order history is still available!

New features include:

News—this section highlights one or two "newsworthy" items, such as information about new pub releases, announcements by Secretary Spellings, etc. The items will have relevancy to publications and the ability to quickly find all publications related to a "news" item. Check back often because the information will be updated regularly.

Featured Items—this section highlights 3-6 publications that are orderable directly from the home page. Each item displays a thumbnail image and title. By clicking the title you can view the publication’s detailed information page. Featured items will be updated every 1-2 weeks.

Hot Topics—this section lists items in response to current events, key ED initiatives, and other timely information. By clicking on a hot topic the system will run a search and find all publications that relate to the topic.

Find Publications By—the links to audience, education level, language, publication type, and subject allow you to quickly find publications related to the groupings. For example, a principal could click on audience and then select "principals" to find all publications that are intended for him/her; a teacher searching for posters could click on publication type and then select "posters" from the list of terms.

Students/Parents/Teachers/Administrators—these menu items listed near the top of the page allow you to quickly find publications that are intended for you. In order to make the search results more manageable you can further refine your group by education level (e.g., elementary, middle, high, college/university, etc.) and subject (e.g., English, math, science, and social studies).

EspaƱol—this section links to publications that are written in Spanish and a Spanish version of the FAQs.

Breadcrumbs—this tool aids you in navigating the site. It is listed below the header and before the main content. You can click on any item in the breadcrumb trail and return to that page.
Zoom—this allows you to quickly view a larger publication cover image.

Quantity—the ability to add the desired number of copies from any page. The system will validate the quantity entered and let you know if the number is above the maximum that is allowed. Over the next several months, we will continue to fine tune the site and we encourage you to check back frequently to see our progress, check out the latest news items, and browse the new arrivals.

Of course, if you have any problems or questions please feel free to call us at 1-877-4ED-PUBS (433-7827). Our professional, knowledgeable Customer Service Representatives are available to assist you Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 6:00pm EST. If you aren’t able to call during this time, please feel free to leave us a voicemail or simply send an email to You can expect a response within 1 business day.

Have a great day!

U.S. Department of Education

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Urban Markets Initiative at Brookings Launches New Website

I received this invitation from Norris Dickard of the Metropolitan Policy Program, Urban Markets Institute over at the Brookings Institution. You may want to check it out.

I hope that you will join the Metropolitan Policy Program’s Urban Markets Initiative (UMI) as we host a demonstration of a new interactive mapping website for the Housing & Transportation Affordability Index, developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in collaboration with UMI. A panel discussion on transportation and affordable housing will follow.

The event will take place April 9, 2008, 9:00 – 10:30am., at the Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW) in Washington, D.C.With the availability of affordable housing a formidable obstacle for many Americans, it is imperative that homeowners understand the full cost implications of location in the purchase of a home – that buying in outlying suburbs without access to public transportation, requiring a long commute by car, may not necessarily afford them the cost savings they envisioned.

The traditional measure of housing affordability used by planners and lenders states that a household should spend no more than 30 percent of its income on housing. In contrast, the new Housing and Transportation Affordability Index takes into account not just the cost of housing, but housing and the transportation costs associated with its location. The Center for Neighborhood Technology’s research shows that the cost of transportation can vary from 14% of a the average household’s budget in compact transit-rich communities, to 28% or more in less dense areas far from employment and other amenities. Working families have a greater burden – for some transportation costs may approach 50% of their household income.

Better information on the combined costs of housing and transportation by location must be made available, as more knowledge about transportation costs will lead to greater understanding that the cost of living is much higher than it needs to be.The index models neighborhood-level data for 52 different metropolitan areas across the United States and presents it in an interactive, online mapping application which can be used by individuals, urban planners, and transportation and housing advocates to support improved decision-making and analysis.

The event will include a demonstration of the new website by Dr. Peter Haas, PhD of CNT followed by a panel discussion moderated by me, and featuring Scott Bernstein, President of Center for Neighborhood Technology, Conrad Egan, President & CEO of the National Housing Conference, and Mariia Zimmerman, Vice President for Policy of Reconnecting America, followed by ample time for audience questions.

Drop me an e-mail if you need more information and I'll connect you with the RSVP/contact information. I'll post the website after the launch.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Indicators for Community Action: Built Environment and Public Health

I read an interesting article that I thought needed to be passed along. Indicators for Community Action: Built Environment and Public Health was published in 2006 in the Journal of Rural and Community Development (authors Andrew Curran, Jill Grant, and Mary Ellen Wood.)

The project examined how community indicators could measure the social and physical environments in a community which are preconditions for successful public health outcomes. These indicators could then serve as a basis for public policy and community action. The intriguing aspects are (1) expanding health indicators to include other indicator domains, and (2) looking for a set of community-based indicators to allow province-level discussion of health impacts of public policy.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the report:

In 2003, the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre at Dalhousie University coordinated a large-scale interdisciplinary research project with a focus on illness and injury prevention. The research seeks to identify the root causes that undermine or enable health (Shookner 2005). “What do we know about the factors in social and physical environments (i.e. workplace, school, community) that contribute to the health status of Atlantic Canadians? What environmental assessment tools must be designed and/or activated? Who should be receiving and acting on these data?” (Lyons 2003: 12a).

One component of the research explores the role of the built environment in enabling community health. An interest in developing indicators that could help community members identify whether their spaces could facilitate health promotion led researchers from the School of Planning to focus on active recreation and transportation. A system of built environment indicators that clearly illustrates the scale and the nature of the challenge of facilitating active recreation and transportation would help local administrations identify their needs, guide possible interventions, and evaluate achievements. Researchers interested in studying built environment and health relationships have tended to rely on subjectively collected assessments of built form for small study areas. Objectively measured, province-wide urban form indicators would greatly facilitate research and action.

Pay special attention to the conclusion of the article:

This project contributes to the literature by identifying the process necessary to apply generic sustainability indicators to specific community purposes. Researchers evaluated a range of indicators developed over the last decade to identify a set of measures that could help Nova Scotia communities to assess whether their built environment conditions contribute to opportunities for community health. By applying models and evaluative frameworks from various sources the project advances the discussion about how indicators can be used in community practice.

Nova Scotia Community Counts provides a prototype for jurisdictions attempting to develop databases that communities can use to monitor and improve quality of life. This research study takes a step towards providing tools to help communities reflect on how the built environment can enhance community health. As Nova Scotians use Community Counts researchers will continue to identify gaps in the information available: research can bridge those needs in ways that enhance the potential for community action. A well-designed community can increase opportunities for residents to participate in activities that contribute to their own health and well-being.

What are the next steps for Community Counts to bring these indicators forward? With four built environment indicators of active recreation and fifteen of active transportation, Community Counts staff members have a set of potential indicators that they can use to expand the database in ways that can provide useful information for communities. Before adding the measures to the system, statisticians will go through a process of evaluating, coordinating and systematizing the data.

Good indicators can help convey complex built environment and land use information in an attractive way to engage the wider public in promoting healthy living and quality of life. Providing people with access to relevant information about the built form of their communities can be an empowering process that equips residents to participate in the political process so that they may better advocate their positions to decision-makers. Over the long term, such advocacy has the potential to significantly improve the quality of the built environment, and the health and welfare of community residents.

Please continue to pass along useful research in the field of community indicators!

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Quality of Life in Biloxi

You'll want to take a look at this article about the new quality of life report from Biloxi, Mississippi.

The post-Katrina population estimates and economic recovery numbers are interesting, and give a taste of the importance of data in recording and shaping community action in response to disaster.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

First Year Statistics

This blog has now been existence for one year. I thought you might be interested in the blog statistics to date.

Number of articles posted: 320
Number of visits: 9,285
Number of page views: 16,169
Number of unique visitors: 7,492
Visitors came from 113 countries

Top ten countries, by number of visits:
United Kingdom

Your favorite posts (by number of visits):

Humor Through Graphs
Graphs and Charts USA TODAY Style
Happiness, Gender, and Statistics
Obesity Statistics
Dashboards and Community Indicators

All in all, a successful launch ... with much more to come. What would you like to see more of on this blog?

(See also Indicators of This Blog Community. For more on measuring blog success, see How to Measure Success of a Blog.)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Enhanced American FactFinder (AFF) Comments Requested

Enhanced American FactFinder (AFF) Comments Requested

(from the Census Bureau):

The U.S. Census Bureau is enhancing the current American FactFinder (AFF) to add features and improve its functionality.

As users of our data, we value your input and want the enhanced AFF to meet as many of your needs as possible so that you can easily access and use data available at the Census Bureau. Therefore, we would like your input about the new system.

We have identified a number of improvements which are described in the link below. Please review them and then provide up to five additional items you would like to see incorporated into the new system. (Note: The survey will be available for comments beginning today, March 10 - March 31, 2008.) Given the limited resources available for enhancing the AFF, the Census Bureau may not be able to implement all the suggestions.

In an effort to reach as many users as possible, please forward this information to your colleagues and others who use data from the Census Bureau.

Thanks for your time and input as we work together to make the AFF a more efficient, dynamic, and interactive data access and dissemination system.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tools for Indicators of Health

Some information about measuring community health courtesy of the NNIP listserve:

Constructing the evidence base on the social determinants of health: A guide
Josiane Bonnefoy, Antony Morgan, Michael P. Kelly, Jennifer Butt, Vivian Bergman With Peter Tugwell, Vivian Robinson, Mark Exworthy, Johan Mackenbach, Jennie Popay, Catherine Pope, Thelma Narayan, Landon Myer, Sarah Simpson, Tanja Houweling, Liliana Jadue

The Measurement and Evidence Knowledge Network (MEKN) of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, November 2007

Available online as PDF file [337p.] at:

“……This guide is designed for practitioners interested in developing and implementing policies and programmes to tackle the social determinants of health inequities. It sets out state of the art recommendations on how best to measure the social determinants of health and the most effective ways of constructing an evidence base which provides the basis for translating evidence into political action…"

Toward A Policy-Relevant Analysis Of Geographic And Racial/Ethnic Disparities In Child Health
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Theresa L. Osypuk, Nancy McArdle and David R. Williams
Health Affairs, Volume 27, No. 2 March-April 2008

Available online at:

“……Extreme racial/ethnic disparities exist in children’s access to "opportunity neighborhoods." These disparities arise from high levels of residential segregation and have implications for health and well-being in childhood and throughout the life course.

The fact that health disparities are rooted in social factors, such as residential segregation and an unequal geography of opportunity, should not have a paralyzing effect on the public health community. However, we need to move beyond conventional public health and health care approaches to consider policies to improve access to opportunity-rich neighborhoods through enhanced housing mobility, and to increase the opportunities for healthy living in disadvantaged neighborhoods….”.

Challenges To Using A Business Case For Addressing Health Disparities
N. Lurie, S. A. Somers, A. Fremont, J. Angeles, E. K. Murphy, and A. Hamblin
Health Affairs, Volume 27, No. 2 March-April 2008

Available online at:

“….The authors consider the challenges to quantifying both the business case and the social case for addressing disparities, which is central to achieving equity in the U.S. health care system.

They describe the practical and methodological challenges faced by health plans exploring the business and social cases for undertaking disparity-reducing interventions.

Despite these challenges, sound business and quality improvement principles can guide health care organizations seeking to reduce disparities. Place-based interventions may help focus resources and engage health care and community partners who can share in the costs of—and gains from—such efforts …”

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The Onion Examines Geographic Literacy

I think I need to point out up front that The Onion is not one of those news sources that obsesses about facts. I thought some of you might enjoy this.

Report: 6 Out Of 10 Americans Cannot Locate Payless Shoes On A Mall Map 

The Onion

Report: 6 Out Of 10 Americans Cannot Locate Payless Shoes On A Mall Map 

WASHINGTON—"No schoolchild should be allowed to grow up ignorant of the varied chain stores around him," said Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

Excerpts from the article:

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who personally monitored the study, said that the United States ranked behind 130 other nations when it came to mall-map comprehension—an embarrassment considering one-third of the countries surveyed didn't even have shopping centers. "In a modern, mall-going society, these important life skills should be second nature to citizens of all ages," Spellings said. "No schoolchild should be allowed to grow up ignorant of the varied chain stores around him."

Despite her frustration, Spellings said she wasn't surprised by the poor test results, and claimed that they signaled a larger cultural illiteracy trend. According to Spellings, over the last decade Americans have fallen off in almost every field of study and endeavor, from mall geography to television history to basic text-message reading and writing. ...
Accompanying Chart

Offended by the implication of her claims, many citizens have called Spelling's allegations overly alarmist and extremely pessimistic, and a large number are now asking, "What's a Secretary of Education?"

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Happiness, Per Capita Income, and Indicators

A few recent news stories may be of interest to this group.

Income and Happiness: An Imperfect Link has Robert H. Frank looking at the convoluted relationship between per capita income, GDP, inflation adjustments, quality of life, and happiness. If anyone is measuring per capita income (or similar measures of average income as a measure of progress), this article is for you.

Newsweek, on the other hand, published Happiness: Enough Already, suggesting that the search for happiness (and how we measure it) is perhaps not the quest we should be on.

Back to economic measures (and education and other quality of life factors): A mini-tempest on talk radio has surrounded the latest World Bank report on progress towards gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa. The data are available to discuss, and the measures are straight-forward enough: education levels, literacy, life expectancy, unemployment rates, etc. Take a look at the progress towards closing the gender gap -- are you measuring similar indicators of gender disparity in your community?

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Global Trends, Local Impacts Conference

Global Trends, Local Impacts
2008 NAPC Annual Conference

May 7-9, 2008 - Clearwater Beach, Florida

A sea-change is underway. It is bringing major shifts in demographics, economics, migration patterns, and much more.

At this conference we will: - examine some of these major trends - explore how to think and plan effectively within this new context - exchange ideas about implications for our communities"Big picture" trends...and specific real-life best practices for community action

Introducing the 2008 Conference: Global Trends, Local Impact
"Big picture" trends, and specific real-life best practices for community action

A sea-change is underway, bringing major shifts in demographics, economics, migration patterns, and much more. At this conference we will:

  • Examine some of these major trends and what they mean for our changing world and our work
  • Focus in-depth on community planning implications of two key trends, immigrant populations and the aging of the population
  • Explore how to think and plan effectively within this new context, and mobilize community awareness and action
  • Exchange ideas about implications for our communities, with many examples and tools

Other conference topics will include developing disaster plans for councils and communities strategies for meeting basic needs, gang prevention, linking people with employment, accessing public benefits, and more...engaging multiple sectors for community progress... understanding generational issues affecting workforce management and succession planning... successful social marketing campaigns...announcing a new online social network on community indicators...NAPC's work as part of a new national initiative sponsored by The Conference Board...and more.

Enjoy a festive poolside opening reception (Wednesday, May 7), then two full days of exciting sessions and networking opportunities (Thursday and Friday, May 8 and 9, ending Friday afternoon).

Participants will have opportunities to:…learn what works, from leading practitioners …develop valuable new relationships and exchange ideas, experiences, resources, and tools …learn more about NAPC…enjoy social and networking activities...get acquainted and have fun…experience one of America’s most beautiful beaches

This will be NAPC's first "beach getaway" conference, at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort on beautiful Clearwater Beach… (It will also be the first NAPC conference without weekend sessions, in the hope that people can stay over afterward for well-deserved relaxation and fun.)

Register online. Early registration deadline (lowest fees): April 9

Join NAPC and attend at the “member” rate: Membership Form

As a means of exchanging information about members’ and related groups’ successful initiatives and latest publications, the Resource Fair has long been a conference highlight. Conference participants may bring materials for the resource tables, which everyone may visit throughout the conference.

After the conference, visit NAPC online – – to view and download some of the conference materials and speaker presentations, and enjoy scenes from the conference on our online photo album.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Job Posting: Community Indicators Consortium

The Community Indicators Consortium (CIC) is an active learning network and community of practice involving persons interested or engaged in the field of community indicators development and application. CIC is seeking a Part-time Executive Director, on a contractual basis, to facilitate, guide, and provide the overall management of the organization.

Leading candidates for this position should have experience managing non-profits, a proven track record in managing projects, experience with fundraising and grant development and management, and knowledge of, or experience with, virtual networks. Preference will be given to candidates with proven expertise in the development and use of data and indicators to inform and drive constructive change and/or performance measurement development and use by governments.

Applications are due on March 21, 2008. To review the complete announcement including the position's functions and responsibilities, qualifications, compensation, and start date, please visit CIC's Web site at or click here.

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