How do participatory models influence youth participation? A case study from Hungary.
While there has been significant policy and research interest in youth political apathy, it is also important to note that political structures, processes and debates often marginalize young people (3) (not least by legal age requirements for political and other citizenship rights). This happens because they are primarily structured around adult interests and needs (see also Edwards 2007). Therefore, participation of young people in democratic institutions is not merely a question of their interest in politics, but also the result of available mobilization channels (Stolle, Hooghe, 2005:44, Skocpol 2003), and youth political participation depends as much on agency as on structure, that is, on the interest of democratic institutions and how open they are to having young people participate in them (Forbrig, 2005:15). While in some countries public authorities and civil organizations work together on expanding arenas for youth involvement in public life, in others young people have to find their ways for political expression in a situation of diminishing resources at their disposal (Loncle et al, 2012). The present paper estimates manifest "political participation" (including formal political behaviour as well as protest or extra-parliamentary political action) and less direct or "latent" forms of participation, conceptualized as "civic engagement" and "social involvement (Ekman--Amna, 2012).
The political opportunity structure paradigm in social movement research states that political opportunities shaped by access to the political system or alliance and conflict structures influence the choice of protest strategies and the impact of social movements on their environment. (Kitschelt, 1986:58). Drawing on this paradigm and on the findings of Stolle-Hooghe (2005:44) on youth participation, this paper argues that, if young people participate less intensively than adults, this is not just a matter of lower interest, but also a result of differences in their political opportunity structures.
Several government-initiated democracy programs take efforts to ameliorate the institutional context within which civic involvement takes place with the aim of involving citizens in decision making (Geissel-Newton, 2012). Participatory models introduce methods and practices that are more than renovation, minor modification or reform of an existing system (Newton, 2012). Democratic innovations as co-governance and consultative-discursive procedures have positive impact on civic education, namely on political knowledge and civic skills of the citizens (Geissel, B. 2012, 174-178). Where attempts to increase engagement through new forms of participation are successful, there is also a potential to promote the construction of new institutions (Aars, 2007:205). Because most innovations take part at the local level, it is especially interesting to scrutinize the effects of participatory options and procedures (Geissel, 2014; also see more about the complex relationship between state and local level in Kriz and Cermak, 2014). The main actors of promoting innovative solutions for youth participation are youth councils (a form of youth voice engaged in community decision-making) within the European Union. Youth councils exist on local, state, provincial, regional, national, and international levels among governments, non-governmental organizations (NGO), schools, and other entities.
Youth studies claim that "citizenship" and "community" are closely related concepts, and young people (4) can be addressed mostly in their micro-environment (Hall and Williams, 1999). Therefore it is extremely important to focus on the processes of their involvement at a local level.
Youth involvement within local spaces of the neighborhood and constructions of their everyday life around schools, households, peer and family networks that operate within these local spaces shapes the meaning they make of politics and the action they take on political and on social issues (Harris-Wyn, 2009:339). Social and political issues therefore took on real meaning for young people in a local context where they can experience the impact of their activity. This is important to note because it has a direct relationship with young peoples' sense of political efficacy. Harris and Wyn (2009) have shown that, for example, while war and terrorism were nominated as the most significant national and global issues, many participants felt powerless to do anything about these concerns. Where personal experience, social interaction and everyday practice became part of politics, these young people were better able to articulate their political views and to take social action.
The UN General Assembly observed 1985 as International Youth Year, bringing the issue of youth participation to the fore. Roger Hart (1992) elaborated 'The Ladder of Participation diagram' as a typology for thinking about children and youth participation in society. The theoretical model sets a number of important requirements for a project to be truly labelled as participatory. Hart deals with eight different stages of children participation. The first three stages are manipulation, decoration and tokenism, not real means of participation that can compromise the entire process. Real forms of participation include the assigned and informed stage in which specific roles are given to children and the consultation and informed stage in which children give advice on programs run by adults and they understand how their opinion will affect the outcome. The most advanced stages are adult initiated participation, a shared decision making process with children, and child-initiated and directed projects in which adults appear only in a supportive, advisory role. This last stage provides children with the opportunity for joint decision making, co-management and shared responsibility with children and adults accessing each other's information and learning from each other's life experience. Even though the levels of participation within the ladder can be construed as being too broad and vague (Kara 2007), and the application of a hierarchy of participation has profound implications since it limits youth engagement, the model is a valuable tool to measure whether a given project or institutional setting serves the interest of young people or not. Political participation and civic engagement is developed, highlighting the multidimensionality of both concepts. Therefore, I use the model to investigate local participatory structures of the Morahalom subregion. (5)
The issue of youth participation first appeared at a European level in 1992, when the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life. This document was revised and adopted again by the Congress in 2003. According to the definition of the Charter, "participation and active citizenship is about having the right, the means, the space and the opportunity and where necessary the support to participate in and influence decisions and engage in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society." The document serves as reference for local youth policy documents and local democratic innovations aiming to increase youth participation since it sets the standards of support structures.
With regards to youth political representation, there is a clear territorial division among the member states of the European Union. In Western member states, arenas for youth involvement in political life are numerous. Low participation levels of young people in these countries brings evidence that institutionalization has a strong tendency to limit participation, and it seems to be this weakening social anchoring that, over time, has affected the legitimacy of democratic institutions (Forbrig, 2005:13). Therefore, the main concern in these countries is to expand the institutional realm and to ameliorate connections between political institutions and their social environment. In Eastern, post-communist member states (e.g. Hungary), where the economic and democratic transition has abolished former structures of the youth sector, the main question is not how to expand the former institutional realm, but how to establish adequate structures for youth involvement (Kovaceva, 2000: 74).
This article explores the political participation in local participatory institutions that aim to encourage political participation of Hungarian young people aged between 15-29 years. Hungary is an interesting case because the Hungarian youth sector has taken a zig-zag path since 1989 (Wootsch, 2010 and Agh, 2013) and the coordination of local and regional institutions is weak. However, there are some best practices at a local level. According to Hungarian youth policy reports (Szasz, 2010), the most developed youth advocacy organizations and the most dense network among the organizations can be found in the subregion of Morahalom (Morahalmi Kisterseg) and there is a unique, subregional cooperation among them. The analysis of this cooperation thus brings empirical evidence that youth advocacy organizations can increase the political participation of young people. By investigating the role and impact of political opportunity structures on youth participation this case study widens the scope of research on youth participation patterns.
2. Research questions and hypothesis
The first group of questions of the paper focus on the political opportunity structures of the selected subregion. Does the Participatory Model of the Morahalom subregion set equal conditions for every and each young person living in the subregion? Based on the theoretical model of Rogert Hart, and on the recommendations of the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life, how does the model serve the interest of young people?
The second group of questions aim to evaluate the impact of the Participatory Model of the Morahalom subregion on young people. Do locally available youth services, including youth advocacy organizations, have empirically demonstrable positive impact on young peoples' political knowledge and civic skills? Is there any empirical evidence to prove that the level of political participation in the subregion of Morahalom is higher than the national average?
With reference to the second group of questions, this article argues that participatory structures on the local level stimulate political interest of young people by increasing perceived influence on political matters.
The hypothesis is that there is a significant positive correlation between the availability of local channels for youth mobilization and political participation of young people.
H1a: I assume that in settlements where young people have more opportunity to participate in local politics (e.g. active youth advocacy organizations and institutionalized relationship between young people and administration) they show higher levels of interest in politics compared to settlements where such structures are absent.
H1b: I assume that in settlements where young people have more opportunity to participate in local politics they demonstrate report to higher levels of local civic participation compared to settlements where such structures are absent.
H1c: I assume that in settlements where young people have more opportunity to participate in local politics they show report to higher levels of political participation compared to results of nationally representative samples of Hungarian youth.
3. Data and methods
The article presents data of a research done in 2013 (Oross, 2015), that has applied qualitative and quantitative methods. Following the documentary analysis of local youth policy documents, and reports published about the work in frame of the Participatory Model, interviews with 25 relevant actors of youth policy within the subregion (mayors, youth workers, elected members of municipal youth councils and other representatives of local youth NGOs) were conducted in order to reveal the principles of the Participatory Model and the practice of the local implementation of the objectives. Questions focused on how the local youth policy action plans are developed and implemented at municipal and subregional level.
The qualitative data (6) was used to investigate youth structures identified by the policy recommendations of the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life and the model of Roger Hart.
In addition to the interviews, a survey was also conducted. The questionnaire consisted of thematic blocks with questions concerning interest in public life and interest in politics; membership in organizations and informal attachment to different organizations; political participation and political activity; consumption of political news (online news portals); political values and ideologies and relationship to democracy. A quota sample was elaborated on 130 persons, following the annual regional statistics published online by the Central Statistical Office. (7)
The survey was realised using a so-called hybrid technique: (8) 46 persons (25.5 %) filled in an online questionnaire and 124 persons (74.5 %) were surveyed by using face to face interviews.
The database contains 175 young people (9) between the ages of 15-29 years (46 online and 124 questionnaires). It was compared to the the annual regional statistics published by the Central Statistical Office and it was weighted based on two aspects. The weighted sample is representative for the Morahalom subregion in three dimensions :
* number of inhabitants
* the proportion of men and women within the settlements
* the distribution of gender and age groups (15-19, 20-24, 25-29) within the settlements
The comparison of my results to national data secondary data analysis was done based on the datasets of Youth 2008, and Hungarian Youth 2012 research.
4. The interpretation of results
4.1. Youth structures of the Morahalom subregion
With regards the first group of questions concerning the available structures supporting the participation of young people living in the subregion of Morahalom, results show extremely heterogeneous conditions (see Table 1). Although advocacy structures exist in each settlement, when evaluating the practice of youth advocacy, structures following the model of Roger Hart; decoration (Ottomos, Forraskut, Ulles, Pusztamerges) and tokenism (Ruzsa) can be found among the municipalities of the subregion; young people are assigned but informed (Morahalom); and a youth-initiated and directed practice (Bordany).
Although the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life proposes that youth representatives should be elected by young people, and representatives should have an NGO background, this principle has not been put into practice in most settlements. Local youth organizations had legal personality and elected representatives in two settlements (Bordany, Asotthalom). Most youth organizations of the region are not legally registered, therefore they are dependent on their background institutions (e.g. the local government or local associations of adults). Where these "background institutions" actively cooperate with young people (e.g. Zakanyszek), the lack of legal personality does not hamper the independent operation of these organizations and do not obstruct their own financial background. But the majority of local youth organizations has no legal personality and has no contact to such "background institutions." These organizations are usually no more than an informal group of local young people. The weak institutionalization of these groups leads to problems regarding their sustainable operation (see also Stefancik & Nemcova 2015 on weak institutionalization).
Taking this heterogenenity into account, I claim that the participatory model does not create a uniform practice that is able to ensure equal local youth representation within each settlement of the subregion. Out of 9 settlements of the subregion, only Bordany, Zakanyszek, Asotthalom and Morahalom has active youth advocacy organizations and an institutionalized relationship between young people and the administration. These results are in line with former results on the fragmentated nature of the Hungarian youth policy context (Szasz, 2010).
4.2. The impact of the Participatory Model on young people
In order to evaluate the impact of the Participatory Model on young people, I will firstly assess (H1a) whether in the settlements where the youth has more opportunities to participate in local politics young people report higher levels of interest in politics, as compared to settlements where such structures are absent.
Interest in politics is one of the main factor of political attitudes. Data of the Youth 2008 and Youth 2012 research has shown a decline of political interest among young Hungarians. It has been pointed out that, in international comparisons, Hungarian young people appear particularly uninterested in politics (Szabo-Kern, 2011). As part of the quantitative research, I have asked respondents how interested they are in politics on a 1-5 ordinal scale.
If we examine the question in the context of the permanent residence of young people, results show that young people who claim to be highly interested in politics live exclusively in settlements where local youth governments exist (Asotthalom, Bordany, Zakanyszek). The assumption, that existing youth governments have a positive impact on the political interest of young people, is supported by the fact that the proportion of young people who claim not to be not at all interested in politics is low in these settlements. This supports the hypothesis that youth advocacy organizations operating within the subregion have a positive effect on the political interest of young people.
It is important to note that my results do not mirror a particularly high proportion of very active young people (although it is above the national average), but the proportion of young people rejecting participation is significantly lower than the national average (see Figure 1). The decline of political interest among young Hungarians is not present in within the sub-region: the average interest in politics is almost 0.4 higher than the national average in 2008, and much higher than the 2012 national figures.
Examination of the local community structures (Utasi, 2010:9-39) proved that communities with intensified ties are more intensely interested in local politics and are more likely to become active in local public life. To further analyse the topic, I have asked respondents how much say they have in local public affairs.
According to the permanent residence of the respondents (see Figure 2), there is a relationship between existing structures for local youth participation and the opinions on having a say at a local level. Those respondents who consider that they have a say in local public affairs live only in settlements where there are youth structures (Asotthalom, Bordany, Zakanyszek), or at least where young people are consulted and informed (Morahalom).
In order to test (H1b) the impact of opportunities to participate in local politics on young peoples' local civic participation, I asked respondents at first if there are accessible NGOs in their settlements that organize programs for young people. (10)
Results presented according to the permanent residence of the respondents (see Figure 3) mirror the heterogenenity of the practice of the participatory model described above. As it was mentioned earlier, Bordany, Zakanyszek, Asotthalom and Morahalom have active youth advocacy organizations and institutionalized relationship between young people. These appear to have a positive impact on youth opinion on the accessibility of programs provided for them. In settlements where NGOs are less active, young people report that there are less accessible programs.
In comparison to nationally representative samples of Hungarian youth, more accessible programs are reported by respondents in most settlements (except for Ottomos). These results are in line with former results--there is a dense network among the organizations within the subregion of Morahalom (Szasz, 2010). It is important to note that, compared to the national data, young people in the subregion can give answer more confidently to this question (the percentage of dk/na anwer is lower) than Hungarian young people in general. The percentage of respondents answering yes to this question represents about 75% of the respondents, whereas at a national level this percentage is significantly lower--as low as 42% (50% at county level.
In order to get a more complex answer to this question, I asked respondents whether they take part in these programs or not. (11)
According to the results (see Figure 4), the percentage of young people who are regular participants in these events is highest in those settlements where youth NGOs are active. The young people who report to never take part in such programs live in settlements where such NGOs are either weak, or non-existent. Compared to national data on Hungarian youth, the level of regular participants is four times higher (30%) than the national average (7%), which represents a significant difference.
Results shown above suggest that there is a positive correlation between the level of political interest in national and local politics in settlements where young people have more opportunity to participate in local politics. Young people report higher levels of interest both in politics and local politics compared to settlements where such structures are absent. They report to have more NGOs in their neighbourhood organizing programs for young people, and they also report that they are more willing to participate in those programs compared to the national data on Hungarian youth.
The third part of my hypothesis (H1c) assumes that, in settlements where young people have more opportunity to participate in local politics, they also show higher levels of political participation.
Electoral participation is the most discussed factor of youth political attitudes. Although in the past decades there has been a clear decrease in voting turnout among young citizens in Western Europe, electoral participation is still the most important form of political participation in Hungary. Therefore, I have asked young people about their participation at national elections.
As for electoral participation (see Figure 5), I found that only 27 percent of young people can be considered as persuaded participants, which is only 2 percent higher than the national figures (25%). Here again, just as in the case of political interest, it is the percentage of those who abstain from voting that is much lower (only 7 percent) than the national average (30 percent); thus, it is the percentage of young people not taking part in elections that is lower than the national average.
In order to compare my results of nationally representative samples of Hungarian youth, Table 2 shows some factors of political participation (Table 2). When selecting these factors, I tried to include all relevant aspects of young people's political knowledge and civic skills (the values that young people consider as important to become a good citizen, participation in different activities of deliberative, direct and representative democracy, trust in decision-makers, interest in politics, electoral participation).
The above indicated results support the third part of my hypothesis. Although young people of the subregion do not consider the value of being active in politics more important as others, they are more active in delibarative foms of participation (blogging, discussing about local and national issues), they have more trust in the mayor of their municipality, they report that there is a higher proportion of those young people who are active in local youth NGOs, and they participate more frequently in protests. The proportion of persuaded participants at national elections is as high as the national average, but they are more interested in politics than the average Hungarian young citizen. Therefore, we can conclude that the model has a positive impact on the political participation of the young people living in the subregion. It is however important to emphasize that the the participatory model does not create a coherent model for all settlements within the subregion, and these differences are also reflected in the political participation of young people.
The aim of the article was to find evidence on whether the practice of local youth advocacy organizations of the Morahalom subregion increased political participation and civic engagement of young people. The paper described, based on the approach of Roger Hart, the available structures supporting youth participation. It turns out that the participatory model does not create a uniform practice that is able to ensure equal local youth representation within each settlement of the subregion. In the majority of the settlements of the subregion, the principle of youth representatives elected by young people with an NGO background as proposed by the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life has not been put into practice.
These differences between the settlements were also reflected in the political participation of young people. Young people reported higher levels of interest both in politics and local politics where there were active youth NGOs compared to settlements where such structures were absent.
Young people claiming to have more NGOs in their neighbourhood organizing programs for them live exclusively in settlements where there are active youth advocacy organizations. Young people are more willing to engage in these programs compared to the national data on Hungarian youth.
It turns out that the political activity of young people living within the Morahalom subregion is higher than the national average. Results have indicated that the model has a positive effect on reducing the proportion of young people rejecting electoral participation.
My results have shown the positive correlation between the existence of local organizational activity and political participation of young people. This offers important evidence and arguments to involve new aspects next to the attitudes of young people, such as issues of interest, knowledge and skills concerning political participation, and to go beyond the topic by pointing out the social and institutional context in which youth participation takes place.
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Daniel Oross (2)
(1) This research was supported by the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund.
(2) Daniel Oross is a research fellow at the Centre for Social Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His research interests are: political participation, youth policy, political socialization. E-mail: Oross.Daniel@tk.mta.hu
(3) Following the categorization of Eurostat, this paper defines young people as persons aged between 15-29 years.
(4) Citizenship has become one of the most dynamic areas of political contestation due to the social and political turmoil in the context of globalisation, transnationalism, migration and multi-level governance. For the purpose of the current article I define citizenship as the state of being a member of a particular country.
(5) I have selected this subregion because the most developed youth advocacy organizations, and the most dense network among the organizations, seem to be be found in the subregion of Morahalom (Morahalmi Kisterseg) in Hungary (Szasz, 2010).
(6) Procedures for interviews were laid out in writing, and were clearly explained to interviewees before interviews proceeded. As for confidentiality, interviewees were not named. Recorded contributions (in written form and on voice recorder) were used in accordance with the wishes of the interviewee.
(7) http://www.ksh.hu/nepszamlalas/tablak teruleti 06. The population of the 9 subregion's settlements consisted of 25,135 persons in January 2010.
(8) In total, 310 respondents have filled in the questionnaire.
(9) As for the generalizability of the data it is important to note that the survey is not based on a random sample, but on a so-called hybrid sample, where a snowball based online interviewing was completed with a personal quota sampling. The fact that the selection was not based on random sampling, causes problems for any statistical tests. On the other hand, the composition of the sample is strongly biased towards those young people who are happy to take part in opinion polls (this type of bias is due to the voluntary participation of the respondents).
(10) Since the wording of the question was exactly the same as in Youth 2008 research it can be compared to national data (Hungarian Youth 2012 research did not contain this question).
(11) Since the wording of the question was exactly the same as in Youth 2008 research it can be compared to national data (Hungarian Youth 2012 research did not contain this question).
Table 1. Youth structures of the Morahalom subregion following Hart's model Features Results Youth-initiated, shared decisions with None of the adults. projects or programmes are settlements within initiated by young people and decision the subregion making is shared between young people and adults. Youth-initiated and directed. young Bordany people initiate and direct a project or programme. Adult-initiated, shared decisions with None of the young people. settlements within the subregion Consulted and informed. young people Zakanyszek, give advice on projects or programmes asotthalom designed and run by adults. Assigned but informed. young people are Morahalom assigned a specific role and informed about how and why are involved. Tokenism. young people appear to be Ruzsa given a voice, but in fact have little or no choice about what they do or how they participate. Decoration. young people are used to ottomos, Forraskut, help a cause in a relatively indirect olles, Pusztamerges way. Manipulation. adults use young people to None of the support causes and pretend that the settlements within causes are inspired by young people. the subregion Source: from the project's data Table 2. Summary of the main results category Morahalom County level National subregion level (value) activity in politics 32% 23% 34% (deliberation) blogging 45% 18% 27% about public affairs (deliberation) have a say in 9% 1% 0% local affairs (deliberation) have a say in 3% 1% 0% national affairs (trust) trust in the mayor 17% -4% -5% (direct participation) 30% 7% 7% participation within the activitiy of a local youth organization (direct participation) 10% 3% 3% participation in a protest (traditional participation) 25% 16% 23% participation at national elections interest in politics (average, 2,65 2,05 1,8 1-5 scale) Source: where not indicated, data comes from Hungarian Youth 2012 Research. The source of the underlined data is Youth 2008 Research. Figure 1. How interested are you in politics? * (Morahalom subregion, 2013, N=130, Hungarian Youth 2012 N=8000, scale 1 through 5; 1=not at all, 5=very interested, dk=don't know; na=no answer) 1 not at all 2 3 4 5 very much dk, na subregional 11 18 31 8 3 29 level county level 54 21 19 5 -- 0 (2012) national 55 15 20 5 2 3 level (2012) Asotthalom 3 24 50 3 12 8 Bordany 0 -- 29 6 4 49 Forraskut 10 18 15 3 -- 54 Morahalom 19 4 29 6 -- 42 Ottomos 0 66 17 -- -- 17 Pusztamerges 21 29 17 17 -- 16 Ruzsa 9 33 18 15 -- 25 Ulles 16 29 39 7 -- 9 Zakanyszek 9 27 27 26 4 21 Source: Hungarian Youth 2012, from the project's data * (p [less than or equal to] 0,05) Source: Hungarian Youth 2012, from the project's data Note: Table made from bar graph. Figure 2. How much say do young people have in local affairs? * (Morahalom subregion, 2013, N=130 Distribution in percentages) many opportunities quite many opportunities subregional level 9 50 Asotthalom 4 76 Bordany 35 53 Forraskut -- 50 Morahalom 14 50 Ottomos -- 100 Pusztamerges -- 50 Ruzsa -- 64 Ulles -- 69 Zakanyszek 9 15 * (p [less than or equal to] 0,05) Source: from the project's data Note: Table made from bar graph. Figure 3. Are there any accessible NGOs in your neighborhood that organize programs for young people? (Morahalom subregion, 2013, N=130, Youth 2008 N=8000, Distribution in percentages) yes no dk, na subregional level 42 30 28 county level (2012) 53 28 19 national level (2012) 75 12 13 Asotthalom 91 3 6 Bordany 97 30 -- Forraskut 75 12 14 Morahalom 58 12 21 Ottomos 33 66 -- Pusztamerges 92 8 -- Ruzsa 51 30 19 Ulles 59 15 26 Zakanyszek 92 0 -- * (p [less than or equal to] 0,05) Source: Youth 2008; the project's data Note: Table made from bar graph. Figure 4. Did you participate in any of these programs? (Morahalom subregion, 2013, N=130, Youth2008 N=8000, Distribution in percentages) regularly sometimes never no program subregional level 30 53 12 5 county level (2012) 7 41 45 7 national level 7 56 35 2 (2012) Asotthalom 40 49 11 0 Bordany 66 28 6 0 Forraskut -- 72 28 0 Morahalom 22 67 9 2 Ottomos -- 67 33 0 Pusztamerges 29 63 -- 8 Ruzsa 26 48 26 0 Ulles -- 55 21 17 Zakanyszek 39 -- 6 0 * (p [less than or equal to] 0,05) Source: Youth 2008; the project's data Note: Table made from bar graph. Figure 5. Would you vote if there were parliamentary elections next Sunday (and if you were entitled to vote)? (Youth N=8000, Hungarian Youth 2012 N=8000, Morahalom subregion, 2013, N=130 Distribution in percentages) surely probably probably surely does not participates no yes participate Youth2008 36% 33% 14% 17% Hungarian 23% 36% 11% 30% Youth 2012 Morahalom 25% 50% 18% 7% subreg... Source: Youth2008, Hungarian Youth 2012; from the project's data Note: Table made from bar graph.
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