Interest Groups Advice

Here is the latest version of the Interest Groups Advice pack.   This provides the key information for setting up and running a group.


INTEREST GROUPS ADVICE

These sheets contain all (and probably more than) you are likely to need in order to set up and run a U3A in Kennet Interest Group. Please do not hesitate, however, to contact the Groups Coordinator or any committee member if you would like further information or support. Current contact details can be found in the Yearbook or latest U3A in Kennet Magazine.


Contents:

 


 

CONTACTS for ADVICE in KENNET U3A   

For general information on managing your group the first port of call is the Groups Coordinator. The Coordinator’s job is to ensure you have the right support to manage your group in line with good practice – both legally and socially. The latter includes following our few simple organisational procedures in Kennet:

  • To check the eligibility of people to join your group; either the Groups Coordinator or the Membership Secretary can help.
  • For help with financial matters: accounting, money handling, payments; the Hon Treasurer or Groups Coordinator will advise.
  • We hope you will occasionally submit articles, photos, reports of a trip or activity for publication in the Newsletter and website. Contact the Magazine Editor to agree the best way to submit your copy.
  • For advice on your topic, the National U3A organisation has dedicated subject advisers as well as online resources.
  • For concerns about basic policy or dissatisfaction with procedures or assistance received you should contact the Chairman.
  • We recommend that you keep an up to date record of the above officers with their phone numbers and email addresses in this folder. These can be found in the current Yearbook or the latest Kennet Magazine.

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THE UNIVERSITY of the THIRD AGE – Background Information

  • The University of the Third Age, or “U3A”, is a worldwide movement encouraging older people to take up or continue educational and other interests in friendly and informal settings, generally in small groups.
  • The U3A movement began in France (Université du Troisième Age). A Summer School held in Toulouse in 1972 led to the formation of an international movement, the International Association of U3As (AIUTA), and the idea gradually spread.
  • University of the Third Age groups now exist throughout the world. However, for various reasons, not all call themselves by that name. Some use the title Seniors Universities, as in China; some are called Institutes of Learning in Retirement, as in the United States; while in countries such as Australia the name varies according to State/Territory legislation on the use of the word ‘university’.
  • There are two U3A models. In France the movement continues to be based around universities, where staff offer specific learning opportunities to older people. In Britain this model was adapted to form a movement based on self-help and mutual aid. This has become known as the ‘Cambridge’ or ‘British’ model. The first British Universities of the Third Age were formed in 1982, under the aegis of the Third Age Trust, which became an associate member of AIUTA. Trustees are elected to the Third Age Trust from U3As throughout the UK. An annual general meeting and conference is held each year at which the principal office-bearers and committee members are appointed and major issues debated.
  • The U3A movement is expanding all the time with local groups setting up throughout the UK, many being so successful that they spawn new groups close by. All administrative work and the great majority of study group activities are carried out on a completely voluntary, unpaid basis. All U3A members are encouraged to take a full part, including helping to start and to run groups; serving on the local committee; and involving themselves in the wider movement. No qualifications are required to join and no qualifications or degrees are awarded.   The “third age” is considered to come after full-time employment, usually with retirement, but U3A does not specify a minimum age for membership.
  • Local U3A groups are autonomous self-help charities run by committees (trustees) elected by group members at annual general meetings. Membership of the Third Age Trust brings the right to use the title and logo of the University of the Third Age. The Trust also provides administrative and educational resources. These include personal liability insurance and a free telephone legal advice service as well as a model constitution approved by the Charity Commissioners.
  • A Resource Centre operates a postal loan service for a wide range of slides, videos, cassettes and CD’s and “subject networks” of individuals are willing to assist others in their particular field of study. Further support comes through a house magazine, “U3A News”, and an educational bulletin, “Sources”. Summer Schools offering tuition in a wide variety of subjects are held every year and on-line study courses are being actively developed.

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GENERAL GUIDANCE FOR GROUPS

1.   Attendance and Registers

  • Group leaders are asked to keep a current register of attendance. Completed registers should be returned to the Groups Coordinator at the end of each July or the group season’s end if more appropriate.
  • Group leaders are asked to note on the register if/when members stop attending and advise the Groups Coordinator if the group is full or wishes to disband.
  • As new members join the group their names and membership numbers should be added to the register and the Groups Coordinator advised. If a membership card is not shown then eligibility may be checked with the Groups Coordinator or Membership Secretary.
  • Only paid-up members of U3A in Kennet may become members of groups but leaders may allow up to two attendances by people testing an interest in the group. Members of Pewsey Vale and Devizes U3As members may join one Kennet group; the Groups Coordinator can advise.

2.   Liaison, Permissions and Records

  • A meeting for group leaders will be held once a year to exchange ideas and provide feedback to the committee. It is recommended that Group leaders attend.
  • Group leaders are required to sign a ‘Contact Permissions’ register to approve or disapprove the publication of their name and contact details in the Kennet Magazine and e.Bulletin.
  • A deputy group leader should be appointed if possible.
  • A log book of the groups’ activities is recommended for reference and passing to future leaders (see page on ‘Log Book’).
  • Leaders are asked to occasionally submit articles, photos, reports of a trip or activity for publication in the Magazine and website. Contact the Magazine Editor to agree the best way to submit your copy.
  • If you have any structure change to your group: venues, day of week, time etc, please inform the Groups Coordinator.

3.   Equipment and Expenses

  • Individual items of capital expenditure must be approved and purchased by the committee.
  • Items of capital equipment purchased for a group are the property of U3A in Kennet and, as such, accountable. Support funding is available for some purchases.
  • Group leaders are responsible for recovery of their expenses from the group e.g. postage, telephone calls, photocopying etc.
  • Members providing refreshments should be reimbursed by the group.
  • Statements of other expenditure, hire of halls, coach travel, purchase of permanent resources, should be returned with registers. (See page on ‘Money Handling and Accounts’ )

4.   Insurance and Organised Trips See separate sheet below

5.   Accidents In the event of an accident, complete an accident form (downloadable from link below) and return to the Groups Coordinator.

Accident Report

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STARTING A NEW INTEREST GROUP

Interest Groups may start by a small group of people identifying a common interest; they may start through the initiative of the Groups Coordinator calling a meeting of people who might be interested in a new topic, but more usually the initiative comes from an individual member who wants to share her/his interest with others. The origin matters not but how to proceed is important.

Preparing for the First Meeting

  • The potential leader should consider how much time and expertise can be realistically committed.
  • Consider what might be expected of group members but be prepared to change..
  • Find out what help is available both locally and nationally. Talk to the Groups Coordinator. There will almost certainly be advice within the local Network or Region.
  • If appropriate, register with and explore the national U3A Resource Centre
  • Invite interested people and Groups Coordinator the to an exploratory meeting.
  • Prepare an agenda / handout so that people know what to expect and are able to think about it beforehand and afterwards.
  • Choose a venue and time that would attract the most people.
  • Refreshment is always appreciated at such meetings.

The Exploratory Meeting

You will need to discuss and agree several aspects:

  1. Purpose The overriding aim of the group? This could indicate whether the group has an open or fixed life span. Some topics are best served by a short course.
  2. Content What is the group going to do?
  3. Standard Beginners, improvers, advanced?
  4. Delivery Discussion, instruction, lectures, shared presentations, excursions?
  5. Leaders One leader, guest speakers or shared amongst members?
  6. Frequency Monthly, fortnightly, weekly, or even more frequent?
  7. Day Same day each time or changing to accommodate members?
  8. Time and duration of meetings?
  9. Venue Hall, other facility or a member’s home, or rotating amongst members?
  10. Refreshment A charge is a reasonable expectation at future meetings.
  11. Management Responsibilities can be shared but one person needs to be designated as the Group Leader who is responsible for registers and finance. This need not be the originator of the group who could be a “Meets Leader” who would oversee the programme and any safety issues.

If there is too great a diversity within the potential members to form one viable group to satisfy all, consider splitting into smaller units.

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SUSTAINING AND INTEREST GROUP

The life of an Interest Group is entirely dependent upon the continued enthusiasm of the membership. When enthusiasm wanes, groups dwindle and die. However, as there is no curriculum set by others, groups are able to evolve and morph as the members wish. Nevertheless all groups need nourishment, often in the form of variety, to maintain energy. If your group is flagging and tends to stick to a standard venue with a standard programme, you could try any of the following:

  • Guest speaker
  • Guest demonstrations
  • Excursions to relevant sites of interest – museums, shows, factories
  • Excursions to completely irrelevant places for a complete change – 10 pin bowling!
  • Residentials – relevant or irrelevant
  • Shared Learning Project with a neighbouring U3A
  • Put on a “demonstration” to attract new members or simply show what you do
  • Have the occasional Open Meeting or invite guests of members
  • Choose a very different aspect of your subject for study, learn new related skills
  • Run a short course and invite other U3A members
  • Other ideas can be generated

Failing Groups

If enthusiasm wanes, if attendance falls off or if members leave, the easy and sensible thing is to ask those people why. There may be a simple unrecognised problem that may have a simple solution, however there are two specifics to consider:

  • Unhelpful behaviour by a member or leader will cause unrest. See the page on Settling Disputes but do seek the support / advice of the Groups Coordinator.
  • It may however be that the group has run its course and done what it set out to do. In this case it is wise to let it go. New members may well take up the baton later and organise a new group on the same subject but possibly in a different format.

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THE LOG BOOK

It is highly recommended that you keep a record of all your group’s transactions, activities, projects, visits, purchases, write-offs. This will not only become a valuable source of reference to settle many of those: “have we got…?”, “when did we go to…”, “who made…?”, “what did it cost last time?” questions, but it can also help in developing ideas for future activities.

The National Office suggests you might keep the following but it is appreciated that many items may not be relevant to your particular group:

  • A statement of the group’s intent
  • Registers
  • Accounts
  • Contacts eg. similar group leader’s in other U3As
  • Useful speakers with evaluation and recommendations
  • Programmes of any relevant study days
  • Programmes and materials used by the group
  • For reference and stimulation:
    • Book lists
    • Articles from the U3A publication “Sources”
    • Relevant U3A Network newsletters
    • Online course
    • Shared Learning Project reports
    • Research papers

Do remember that your Interest Group may outlast the current leader, and the Log Book will be a great asset for future leaders. In fact, should a Group be abandoned and a new one form in a subsequent year, the ‘old’ log book could help.

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DATA PROTECTION

  • With the current rogue trawling of websites to collect email addresses, it is no longer safe to publish personal contact details on the web. It is therefore U3A in Kennet policy not to publish any such information on its website; however it is useful to members to have some contact details available in the Yearbook and Newsletter. To answer this need, all leaders are required to approve or disapprove the publishing of their name, phone no. and email address in the Yearbook, Magazine and e.Bulletin. If a leader chooses not to make any of these available, enquiries about the group will be directed via the Groups Coordinator, however this officer cannot be expected to act as a general post box for communications between group members and their leader.
  • All Yearbooks will also exclude the postal addresses of leaders and group hosts, unless submitted by the individual in their Interest Group’s information, or specifically requested. Also, unless otherwise requested, when the Magazine is published on the website, all personal contact details will be replaced by links to an Executive Committee member who will advise leaders of any responses.
  • To facilitate communication amongst Group members, contact details (phone & email) are printed on the Group Register that is held by the Group Leader. This must not be made public outside the Group. It is each group member’s prerogative as to whether the information is shared with other members of the group.
  • A sad, over the top, requirement of the data protection act is that written permission must be obtained before publishing anyone’s photograph… even in our own Newsletter! If such photos are likely (and we hope they are), it might be best to obtain a blanket approval signed by all group members and keep it in the Leader’s folder. The group register facilitates this.
  • Apart from the phone no. and email supplied to the Group Leader as above, the personal details and membership transactions of all U3A in Kennet members are held by the Membership Secretary and a backup copy by the Groups Coordinator. Members’ contact details are held by all the Executive Committee but none will not be divulged to others without the specific permission of the member.

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MONEY HANDLING AND ACCOUNTS

 U3A in Kennet adopted the policy of Membership Fees not funding Group activities and that all Groups will arrange their own finance responsibilities.

Groups which charge separately fall into 3 main categories:-

a) Small Groups in houses

Usually a small payment is made to the host at each meeting to cover tea/coffee. There is no requirement for a statement to the Treasurer in this circumstance.

b) Larger Group in a hall

The addition of the rent for the hall adds complications. You must ensure that an extra contribution is levied to cover the hall rent. If this is levied each meeting, there is a risk of low numbers not meeting costs and members who never miss a session having to pay more to cover the shortfall. Why not have a system of members paying in advance for an agreed period and the rent then being paid from the main U3A account directly to the owners or property managers? These payments could include an additional levy for tea and coffee as detailed above. The Treasurer runs a separate bank account to cover this. Paying in slips are available to facilitate group leaders paying into the account with CAF Bank which uses HSBC as its clearing house. Financial statements need to be made to the Treasurer as soon after 31st July as possible so that the figures can be incorporated into the Trustees’ Report.

c) Even larger groups with rented hall and possibly an occasional visiting speaker.

In this situation, it is recommended that all transactions are handled through a Groups U3A bank account. It is not recommended that the Group Leader is asked to collect all monies and dispense expenses to the hall owners and the speaker etc., even if remitting the net surplus to the bank account but there are times when this is not always possible and if this is the case please ensure that all receipts are kept and that a full statement of income and expenditure is supplied.

It is essential that bookings for outside accommodation are handled by the Executive Committee, on behalf of the U3A and any formal agreements signed by a trustee.

Cash Holding:

Group Leaders are advised not to hold any more than £50 in cash at any time and, if this is to exceeded please talk to the Treasurer first.

REPORTING OF FINANCIAL MATTERS

ALL GROUPS ARE ASKED TO SUPPLY EITHER A NIL RETURN OR STATEMENT OF INCOME AND EXPENDITURE AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR. THE FINANCIAL YEAR RUNS FROM 1ST AUGUST TO 31ST JULY AND A STATEMENT IS REQUIRED AS SOON AFTER 31ST JULY AS IS POSSIBLE.

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INSURANCE       

Full details are yet to be uploaded to the website. For advice contact the Groups Coordinator.

Simplified:

  • U3A in Kennet provides personal and product liability insurance and also money insurance. No claim should be made or admitted without first referring to the Committee.
  • U3A in Kennet insurance does not cover paid tutors. Group leaders are asked to make this clear to any that they might wish to employ and also to contact the Groups Coordinator before doing so. Paid ‘teachers’ may not be employed on a frequent or regular basis.
  • A group wishing to arrange an organised trip – e.g. theatre, walking trip, travel group or educational package – should contact the Groups Coordinator to make sure that the arrangements comply with the regulations covering package travel.
  •  Insurance cover depends on accurate records of attendance and on membership-only groups.

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SETTLING DISPUTES 

This procedure approved by Committee following consultation with Group Leaders – 6th January 2006

The U3A is a welcoming and non-judgmental organisation in which members meet in friendship and bring with them maturity and a wealth of life experiences. Groups and their leaders are therefore asked to be patient and understanding with members who have difficulty “fitting in”. It should be rare for groups to experience problems or disputes but should these occur, members are asked to follow these procedures, adopted in line with National U3A guidance. This is important as U3A in Kennet is a formally constituted charitable company with trustees who have an obligation to see that the organisation is properly run.

  1. The Group Leader must discuss the area(s) of concern with the individual. This is to ensure that the member is aware of the difficulty as sometimes it is possible to cause offence without realising. The Group Leader should tactfully indicate the behaviour that is unacceptable and ask for an immediate improvement while taking account of the member’s point of view. The member should always be given the opportunity to respond. If desired, the Groups Co-ordinator can be present at this discussion.
  2. If the unacceptable behaviour continues the Group Leader should then (if they have not already done so) discuss the difficulty with the Groups Co-ordinator to see whether a solution can be found. If necessary, the Groups Co-ordinator will intervene at this stage, perhaps talking to the member separately or asking for a joint meeting.
  3. If the problem remains and the leader wishes to exclude the member the Committee should be informed of this decision. The Committee will also require the facts as to why this step is considered necessary. These facts will be supplied by the Groups Co-ordinator.
  4. The member has the right of appeal to the Committee against a leader’s decision. At least three members of the Committee (preferably including the chairman) will hear both sides of the dispute, attempt to arbitrate and, if necessary, make a decision on the expected outcome. Should reinstatement be requested Group Leaders are asked to respect the decision in the wider interest of U3A in Kennet.

Note In the case of theft or other criminal offences there is an automatic right to exclude the offender and report the offence. The Committee must be informed immediately.

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KENNET U3A PUBLICATIONS

The Website    (www.u3ainkennet.co.uk)

 The website is our public face in the media and a source of information for members.

The content is constantly being expanded and updated by a dedicated Kennet team, the Website Group. We recommend a perusal and would welcome your comments if you think something is missing, difficult to use or could be better explained. Currently the site contains lists of Interest groups with information on each group, archives of all groups since Kennet’s launch in 1992 and names of all past exec members plus the current executive committee members. It also records how the U3A in Kennet is organised but perhaps more importantly, it tells us what is happening now and what is planned. Another useful aspect is its being a resource base either directly (this entire Kennet Advice Pack is available) or with links to external resources, especially the National U3A website with its many advice sheets and access to experts on many topics.

Your own articles, reports, photos or news of coming events would help make the site “live”.

 The Yearbook

The Yearbook is published soon after the AGM in order to name the newly elected Executive. It somewhat duplicates the salient aspects of the website in a convenient A5 size booklet. Issued annually to every U3A member, it lists relevant contacts, sub committees, dates of exec and general meetings and other open events. There is a list of groups and their convening details plus more detailed notes about each groups’ activities, as well as a brief outline of resources available to help groups.

 The Magazine

Issued to every member four times a year (unless a digital copy is preferred) this is the place to keep people posted about what’s happening in Kennet. Serious, humorous, pictures, whatever. If you think it would be of general interest or maybe stir folks into trying something new, then we want to hear from you. Magazine submissions are normally added to the website (with your permission).

Articles, ideas or comments should be sent to the Magazine Editor. or Groups Coordinator.

The e.Bulletin

This monthly publication is circulated by email and is primarily designed to give news of coming events, new initiatives, changes in group schedules, committee updates; anything that is current and newsworthy.

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THE NATIONAL  U3A WEBSITE      (www.u3a.org.uk)

 The website gives direct access to a very wide range of information such as general interest articles about the origins of U3A and the Third Age Trust, technical advice on running a local U3A, setting up and maintaining Interest Groups, legal matters of finance and insurance, and cooperating with other U3As in Shared Learning plus much more. The following exemplify some pages that are open to the general public:

  • The U3A Movement
  • The Third Age Trust
  • Conference Reports
  • Regional websites
  • Online Courses
  • Shared Learning
  • Press Releases
  • News of other U3As

There is however a “Members’ Area” for which it is necessary to register on line. Once registered and logged in, the following areas are available in which much excellent advice is given:

  • Regions
  • The Third Age Trust
  • National Office Mailings
  • The Resource Centre
  • Subject Advice
  • Events and Competitions
  • Offers for U3A Members
  • Shared Learning Projects
  • U3A Publications
  • Document Downloads
  • Website Design
  • Message Board/Forums
  • Notice Board
  • Online Shop

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SHARED LEARNING PROJECTS – an Introduction

Shared Learning Projects (SLPs) began in the autumn of 2002 at the British Museum in London:  the first ever project involved 12 U3A members from North London U3A researching an object of their choice. They came together for fortnightly meetings to discuss their progress and any problems and the project concluded with a presentation with each person talking briefly about their findings.  The research was then written up and the report was presented to the Museum.  A number of projects were subsequently set up with other London museums which involved us researching a subject proposed by the institution, the outcome of which would be useful to that institution.  This is an important feature of SLPs with museums, art galleries, stately homes and libraries:  whilst learning and informing ourselves, we are carrying out research that is of use to the institution.  However, U3As working together can also set up SLPs focusing on almost any topic of interest to the group.

Since their introduction, SLPs have grown in popularity across the Regions. Those who have taken part in a project will bear witness to the excitement and confidence that they generate, and the institutions with which U3A members have worked will also confirm their success.

If you would like to embark on a SLP, please read carefully the information below.  This is now issued as an Advice Sheet by National Office and follows on from the SLP Start-up leaflet that is also available on these SLP web pages – just click on the appropriate page to see it.

 What are Shared Learning Projects?

An SLP involves a team of U3A members, usually from different U3As, exploring a specific topic, proposed by a U3A or by an institution (such as a museum, art gallery, stately home or library) and normally there is a set time span.

 The Shared Learning Projects Start-up Leaflet

This leaflet is intended to give U3As and outside organisations a brief introduction to SLPs and how to set up a project.  Copies are available from National Office or from your Regional SLP Contact.

 How to set up a Project

If you want to set up a SLP with a museum or other institution, you need to contact the Lifelong Learning Officer or similar person to ask if there is a research or assessment project you could undertake for them.  You should tell them about the U3A and your U3A in particular and arrange to visit them to discuss the details.  If possible, you should go with the person who will lead the SLP as the relationship between the organization contact and the U3A leader is crucial to the success of the project.  The learning will be ‘shared’ between all the parties involved.  You need to discuss and agree the following points:

  1. the length of the project, the number of meetings and the dates.
  2. the number of people who will work on the project – usually 10 to 12.  You will need a meeting room to accommodate the group.
  3. is the location accessible for your members?
  4. is the organisation prepared to host a final presentation?
  5. will you have access to photocopying facilities/library/computers and tea and coffee?
  6. what will be the final outcome, eg a report, leaflet, display or web entry?

(information taken from the National website www.u3a.org.uk)

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THE NATIONAL U3A RESOURCE CENTRE

The Resource Centre in the National Office in Bromley has a collection of non-book material available to all U3A groups to borrow free of charge except for the cost of return postage.  There are slides, videos, cassettes, DVDs and cd roms available in a wide range of subjects.  Individual subject lists are available from the Resource Centre on request and the whole catalogue is available here on the web site with an ordering facility.  Please note that you have to first register with the Resource Centre as a user either by telephoning between 9.30am and 4pm on TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY or THURSDAY, or online by going into the resource centre catalogue and clicking on ‘sign up’. Bookings can be made 9 months ahead and loans are for an initial period of 3 weeks.  Over 75% of U3As are making regular use of the Resource Centre to support and enhance their study groups and if you would like more detail about a particular item do not hesitate to contact the Resource Centre.

Using The Resource Centre Catalogue

To log in to the online Resource Centre catalogue you need your surname and 4 digit user number (user number supplied by the Resource Centre if you are registered with them). If you have not registered then do so by clicking on Resource Centre Catalogue and clicking ‘sign up’.

You may order items online up to a limit of three items for every meeting date. Always specify the exact date of your meetings and items will be sent two to three weeks in advance to allow time for preparation.

You need to order at least two weeks before your meeting date, the system will not accept last minute bookings as time is needed to pack and post the item and the Resource Centre is only open from Tuesday to Thursday (last minute bookings can only be made by telephone).

If you do not hear from us within ten days of your request being sent please contact us by telephone as the e-mail may not have arrived.

Searching the Catalogue

You may search by any word in a Title, or by Keyword – simply enter the subject you are interested in and you will find a list of items to choose from.

Keywords describe the subject of the material but do not appear in the title, for example a video or DVD entitled ‘Grand Designs’ does not include the term Architecture but if you search under that keyword you will find the ‘Grand Designs’ items included.

If you enter a general term like Art you will be presented with hundreds of items, if you search by a more specific term such as Impressionism the list of items will be much shorter.

You can order from or sign up for a log in number at our Online Resource Catalogue.

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