Why DEI is the right thing for Rotary

Katey Halliday

Editor’s Note: In September 2020, Rotary formed a task force charged with assessing the current status of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Rotary and shaping a comprehensive action plan to help us further value and live those principles throughout the organization. This is the first installment of a series of blog posts from DEI Task Force members reflecting on their work on the committee and why it is critical for the organization.

Katey Halliday is a past president and founding member of the Adelaide City Rotaract Club, and a member of the Rotary Club of Adelaide Light. She initiated her district’s first-ever participation in the local Pride March celebrations and is a member of her Rotaract club’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) working group. Professionally, she is a diversity and inclusion project officer and training facilitator for South Australia Police (read her full bio). We asked Halliday the following questions about DEI and Rotary.

Q. As a member of Rotary’s DEI Task Force, what do you consider to be some of the unique challenges Rotary faces in examining and taking action to strengthen our DEI practices and mindsets? What do you think is needed to overcome them?

Katey: One of the unique challenges is the size of the organization. Our global cultural differences are another. Club cultures with members who are not working in businesses/organizations working towards DEI, may be out of touch with what is happening and expected in corporate/professional realms in terms of DEI.

Big organizations have been working towards DEI for years. Potential new members who are working in these realms may be put off by a club that is not DEI friendly. Rotary needs to fill this gap by providing the education and awareness that workplaces have been doing and continue to do.

Q: What characteristics, values, or experiences can Rotary draw upon to help us become a model for how organizations embrace and live out the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Katey: Look at what other large (especially global) organizations are doing to be more DEI friendly. This is where working with third-party DEI experts will be valuable. We are certainly not the first (and I imagine there are aspects of our organizational culture where we are quite far behind) which means we can learn a lot from others.

Q: How do you expect that the experiences of our members and others will change once we have strengthened our DEI practices and culture throughout the organization?

Katey: There will be some who are already on board with enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our culture and they will feel empowered and energized by the positive changes made. There are some who will not agree and will never change and we must ensure they do not hinder progress. But we cannot focus too much effort trying to change them.

The majority of individuals, however, will be in the “movable middle” and we must get them on board through education and awareness of why it is so important, not only to strengthening Rotary for the future, but because it is the right thing to do for the communities we live in. Some of the “movable middle” will be influenced by data and facts and some will be motivated through stories that promote empathy. Eventually, these people will form part of the majority and become the role models and active bystanders who ensure that anything contrary to a DEI culture we want to build will not be tolerated.

Q: What is one meaningful question that every club should pose among its members to start a productive conversation around DEI?

Katey: Start with why – Why is it important for Rotary to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive?

Q: What other perspectives, priorities, or thoughts about DEI do you feel it is important for Rotary members to understand?

Katey: Overcoming unconscious bias and the assumptions people make about others based on their personal characteristics will be important for Rotary members in creating change. We also need to acknowledge that everyone can and should be doing something to create change because it cannot be done by leaders alone. Empowering members with things they can do to create change will be important (bystander actions, awareness of reporting mechanisms, supports, etc.)

Learn more about Rotary’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement and meet other members of the task force.

55 thoughts on “Why DEI is the right thing for Rotary

  1. Equity and Inequality. Happy that we are having this conversation as we live by our Rotarian Code of Conduct and the Rotary values and principles. I suggest consideration of the following three action-step process on the subject:
    1. To start, I believe most of us have a good sense and idea about inequality in all aspects of life. Thus, perhaps we in our clubs and districts can reach a consensus on inequalities in our communities.
    2. Then use our Rotary Areas of Focus and the Eight Pillars of Positive Peace as a guide to address those inequalities that perhaps are caused by the unequal distribution of resources. Furthermore, The Four-Way Tests asks: Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
    3. Walk the Talk, and Take Action to do a project that addresses inequalities in your community. This is an opportunity to measure the impact on member thinking and positions on an inequality and equity scale.
    Result … Members will do a good service while learning more about inequality and equity in their communities, in the world, and in their own thinking. Peace.
    Be Rotarian.

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      • To George Syme. Thank You for your comment. I acknowledge your position. I am guided by my understanding of our Rotary mission, values and principles in addressing INEQUALITY … and what is fair and beneficial to all concerned. Peace.

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      • I am guided by the truth, logic and facts. Any lie is bad – no matter how much lipstick you paint on it. There is no peace when good people do evil. There will be and never is – a place to hide from the truth.

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  2. I know of know Rotary Clubs that exclude people at all. You live or work in the community, you pay your dues, you can join and stay as long as you want. I see where Rotary Clubs International making the assumption that its clubs are not inclusive is driving away members who feel they are being accused of racism. Can Rotary Club International personnel even define “equity?” Every person that I ask gives me a different definition.

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  3. Thank You for sharing your thoughts. I believe we all support having a level playing field with conditions, policies and rules that are fair to all concerned. Unfortunately, there are some people who game the system to gain unfair advantages. For example, I love sports where people call out and penalize cheaters. Go Rotary.

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  4. I am done with this discussion – equity (as it is being used in these discussions) a dangerous and not useful idea – it does not promote the equality of opportunity that is the basis for our individual freedom and choice – and all the amount of explaining will not change that fact. Be careful what you ask for – you may just get it – in ways you have never imagined. I will continue to give support to those less fortunate – regardless of any organization – I will not associate with any organization that has lost its soul. 10,000 years of human history prove my point – wishing and hoping never makes anything so.

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  5. It is telling when the DEI exploratory task force starts the conversation “Why DEI is right for Rotary”
    I believe the task forces mission was to explore IF DEI is right for Rotary.
    This is as deceitful as how the term “Equity” is being spun.
    This is not a study task for it’s a push a shove a railroad. When the so called task force describes people ” as movable middle” and those that aren’t movable will basically have to go by the wayside (paraphrase)
    Rotarians…ask yourself…have you harbored bad thoughts about rotary members, have you not been inclusive, know any member against diversity, know anybody that doesn’t have equal opportunity in Rotary.
    Why are we wasting valuable Rotary resources on this,

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Words matter.
    “INEQUITY and INEQUALITY.: these terms are sometimes confused, but are not interchangeable, inequity refers to unfair, avoidable differences arising from poor governance, corruption or cultural exclusion while inequality simply refers to the uneven distribution of health or health resources as a result of genetic or other factors or the lack of resources. ”
    From Global Health Europe

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  7. Social Justice, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity
    Yes, this focus and commitment is The Right Thing for Rotary and Rotarians
    Let us led by our example by living our Rotarian Code of Conduct.

    In line with our value of integrity, we are committed to being honest and transparent about where we are in our DEI journey as an organization, and to continuing to learn and do better.

    Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a political issue; we all have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, to have equal opportunities for fellowship and service, and to be given the same platforms for our voices to be heard.

    Please see … https://my.rotary.org/en/learning-reference/about-rotary/diversity-equity-and-inclusion

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  8. Rotary has developed one of the most effective world wide organizations and it certainly does not need DEI training of how to be more effective. No I am not interested in spending time with this proposal. We should be very protective of Rotary as it is today and Rotary has a wonderful history of which I certainly want to continue to support without DEI.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like it or not, times are changing.
      Furthermore, I believe Rotary with all our resources (people and money) is underperforming in achieving our mission and vision.
      How could Rotary do better to be more effective in our polarized nations and world?
      The status quo is not our best answer.

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      • Rotary’s mission & vision is not intended nor should it be political.
        If it was politically inclined we would not have been as successful in our polio campaign.

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      • Good question .. is DEI political?
        RI says … Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are not political issues.

        For more information including five ways your club can support diversity, equity, and inclusion …go to … rotary.org/dei

        Peace.

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      • Rotary International may say DEI isn’t political. However, their actions say otherwise.
        Rotary International needs to spell out the expected costs to implement their new DEI program. Please include real examples of where Rotary has excluded any member or prospective members, or failed to help any member or prospective in need of financial or physical accommodations.
        I personally do not know of any examples, do you? Explain please.
        DEI is going to use valuable Rotary resources, please validate real reasons and examples why Rotary should divert resources we are using to help people and communities for DEI.
        Also, Rotary has many traditional and conservative members, has any of the DEI advocates made any allowance as to the financial & resources lost when many of the traditional and conservative Rotary members leave the club.

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    • No matter how long “equity” is promoted – as the Supreme Court discovered recently – a mistake is a mistake – no matter how many years go by – equality of opportunity is what we need – equity denies equality – equity forces some artificial “leveling” and that fact is not going to change, no matter how many feelings are expressed – Rotary is making a huge mistake and time will only make it worse. “Equity” has not, does not and will never pass the 4 way test and for those who cannot see that – you are damaging Rotary and that is the truth. Equity will never be just or fair or true. Who is the “judge” of equity? what is equity? what force maintains this artificial “equity? is “equity” needed for a lifetime? a century? a millennium? equity is defined by the individuals who will never agree. Those who persist in this error are damaging Rotary. All of the double talk, emotional babbling, wishing and hoping, faulty logic – none of these will make equity the goal to be followed. The actual way to help those in the world that have less than we have – is to provide equality of opportunity. Remember who was tossed out of heaven because he would force everyone to be “good”. History is filled with the disaster stories of those who would “make” the world a “perfect” place – those who would force everyone to do and be exactly the same. Those who ended up eliminating (still happening in the world today) all of those who did not fit the “model”. Don’t be like our Supreme Court – who fooled themselves into thinking that taking away the will of the people – would be a useful thing to do.

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  9. I’ve been a member for over 20 years and a couple clubs and visited several around the country…..I believe Rotary members follow the four way test and I’ve never witnessed a club or any of it’s members ever treating “any” person in a disrespectful, unequal or un-inclusive manor.
    Embracing DEI to shame our already wonderful diverse & inclusive members is a mistake.
    Equity vs Equality, I will never be a part of an organization that preaches equity, rather than equality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Equal: Dues are the same for everyone.
      More Equitable: Financial support programs, family/corporate memberships, friends of Rotary options or discounted dues for young members, so cost is not a barrier to membership.

      Equal: Everyone can work this fundraiser by standing at a booth for 2-hour shifts.
      More Equitable: Providing access or equipment for people of all physical abilities to work a 2-hour shift.

      Equal: The in-person Rotary meeting will be at 12pm Tuesdays.
      More Equitable: Tuesday noon meetings are hybrid to allow attendance in person or online, plus there’s a happy hour meeting on the first Thursday of each month.

      Just because everything is presented as the same for everyone, doesn’t make it equally accessible for everyone. Making things more equitable makes Rotary more accessible. It’s a win for everyone all around.

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      • Beneficial to all concerned – that means ALL – equity is NOT THAT! I am really getting tired of this nonsense.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @George This is not nonsense. It is important discussion and I thank you for engaging. How is equity not in reference to “all concerned?” Equity is similar to equality, but with more nuance and understanding so we can meet people where they are at. I think my examples above are clear as to why equality does not always mean “all,” even with the best of intentions.
        As Rotarians we are asked to set aside our “self” and think about others through the lens of The Four Way Test. Some of you with negative comments regarding equity seem to be hung up on what you think equity means instead of listening to how it relates specifically to Rotary. Not your politics. Not any social movement you have preconceived notions about. Just Rotary.
        We are moving forward in a more equitable fashion. I hope you will join us!

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      • I will definitely not not be joining you. Equality yes, equity NO!
        I’m done with this conversation and with your spin on equity term.
        Today I love my Rotary and my past Rotary, I will not be participating in your future Rotary.
        I’m not asking for your reply, we are so far a part your response isn’t of interest to me, nor do I believe my desires are an interest to you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lizzy,
        Yes, and Rotary International leaders and many Rotarians have decided that DEI conversations are necessary as we move forward.
        I am with you.

        P.S. I find interesting that some people use The Four-Way Test to justify their positions rather than opening-minds and use our differences as a catalyst for constructive change.

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      • The examples you provided Lizzy are actually being and have been implemented in all the Rotary clubs I’ve been a member, each of your examples are already being done. I don’t know a single Rotary member that hasn’t made provisions allowing anyone desiring to be a member but needs financial consideration or physical considerations to go unmet.
        Rotary does not need DEI, Rotary is already an amazing club.
        You talk about or offer comments as to how in your opinion our current Rotary members are not Diverse, Equitable or Inclusive….Give us some real life examples of why we current members need to be trained or retrained to fit your DEI woke mold. Give real examples of where we have failed.

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      • Dan – at no point have I said that we are currently failing at DEI and I think you are living in a fantasy if you think clubs are already addressing every situation I noted in my equity examples. My club only set up a scholarship fund to help members cover dues two years ago and I don’t know any other clubs in my district offering something similar. Does that mean they are failing at DEI? No, but it does mean that there are things they could be doing to make their club more accessible, and maybe if we all talked about it they would be inspired to do the same as my club. Promoting that DEI be a factor in how clubs operate, make decisions and implement changes does not mean they are currently lacking in diversity, unequitable or exclusive. It just means that we should place a high value on doing our best with it. If we want to truly live by The Four Way Test we need self-awareness and the ability to recognize where, when and how we can do better.

        And to reply to your other comment asking me which clubs are banning women, again that’s not what I said. I said some are “unwelcoming” to women. An important distinction because it’s not purposefully breaking the rules while still lacking in DEI. There are many places in the world where culturally women are not treated equally to men, are not allowed all the same freedoms, and that can carry over into the culture of Rotary Clubs in those areas. Rotary has banned women longer than it has welcomed them and unfortunately I think there are places where inequality still exists. That doesn’t mean we are doomed or terrible or failing. It just means more work needs to be done and I think having a DEI taskforce sends a message to all Rotary Clubs that this is important work.

        Those of us willing to do the work of DEI are willing to take a hard look at ourselves and not get defensive. The fact that you have now twice twisted what I’m saying to fit your narrative that DEI is somehow a personal attack tells me this conversation is over.

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  10. equity is a slippery slope and is not the same as equality – There is a “pilling on” to those who oppose equity – equity is similar to racism and that is a fact – if you refuse to modify this definition you are going down a totalitarian road and you can emote and yell and whine and blame and pooh pooh and denigrate and blame and yes hate all you wish – 1000 years of human history shows I am absolutely correct – dump equity. You cannot dress up a horrible idea in “progressive” clothing and call it ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There is no reason why someone joining Rotary should be talking about their sexual orientation. Are they joining Rotary to have sex! The who idea of DEI has been taken over by liberals who have very ulterior motives. It’s a put off!
    Join any club and focus on Rotary business and see if anyone will stop you.

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    • Someone’s sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with sex. No where in this article does it suggest someone should talk about their sexual orientation either. If you feel politically attacked by people who want to treat others with kindness and acceptance, that could be a signal that some self-reflection is in order. Rotarians are people of service, seeking peace and understanding while helping people in need, abiding by The Four Way Test. We should not lose sight of that even when we feel uncomfortable or in unfamiliar territory. Following The Four Way Test requires us to not go with our gut reactions, but to step back and be thoughtful in our approach to any and all situations.

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      • The Four Way Test has been working for generations of Rotarians.
        Again…..I don’t know of anyone in Rotary that wouldn’t or doesn’t help any member or prospective member participate in all the clubs activities.
        Trying to fix something that isn’t broken in itself sending the wrong message and cost valuable time and assets that could be going towards rotaries core projects.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve given it much thought and DEI, especially the deceitful spin used for the term Equity, would be harmful for Rotary.
        We as a club are already, openly diverse, equal opportunity and inclusive club. If you would be thoughtful you would learn we are doing very well and don’t need fixing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Equity
        /ˈekwədē/
        noun
        1. the quality of being fair and impartial.
        “equity of treatment”

        Notice the word “fair” is the very definition of equity. It’s also the second question we ask ourselves in The Four Way Test. “Is it fair to all concerned?”
        Equity has been important to the values of Rotary since The Four Way Test was adopted over 75 years ago.
        To suggest that it’s not something we should even discuss or consider is disingenuous, and I have to wonder what your agenda is if you deny the importance of equity in Rotary. That kind of denial is generally a political posture and that’s not how we do things in Rotary.
        Whether you support it or not, Rotary International, districts and clubs are all creating task forces and committees to educate members on the important of it to ensure that our organization is poised for a diverse, welcoming and equitable future of service.

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      • I agree with you Lizzy, the Four Way Test has worked for many years. No reason to change whats been working fine.
        Every Rotarian has an equal opportunity to serve their club and community. If you do the work you get the reward.
        Those Rotarian’s that enjoy membership but choose not to do the work should not share in the rewards.
        Equity and particularly in the manor it’s implemented in todays social world means everyone gets rewarded no matter who puts forth the effort this is not fair and will be harmful to Rotary.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your definition is not the definition used by proponents of “equity” – in the context of this discussion – which means that all people should be equal in results vs equal in opportunity – so the definition that you have mentioned is disingenuous, incorrect and somewhat shameful. I follow the 4 way test and I assumed, obviously, that all Rotarians do follow the 4 way test – I see my assumption is incorrect. Rather disturbing to say the least.

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      • What I shared is the dictionary definition of equity. What you are basing your judgment on is YOUR definition of equity, the politicized version, that sees fairness for others as inherently unfair to ones’ self. Rotarians should see fairness as a benefit to all, per The Four Way Test. See also my comment on this blog outlining examples of equity versus equality in Rotary. Your misperceptions about what equity means in the context of Rotary are leading you down a negative path. Shaming me and assuming that I’m not genuine was completely uncalled for on your part.

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  12. I like the emphasis on the “movable middle” for real progress. I’m a 2nd generation rotarian and it’s time to change if this organization is going to remain relevant in our diverse communities.

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  13. Thank you Katey! While the comments are draining, they just go to show the importance of your work. Exclusion is far more political than inclusion. We need to do away with the prevalent politics of hate within Rotary.

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    • There isn’t a prevalent policy of hate within Rotary.
      There is a prevalent policy diversity, equal opportunity and inclusion in Rotary.
      The Four Way Pledge is a beautiful and well rounded pledge to do and wish all people well.
      There aren’t any substantial grounds for your awful statement.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s a beautiful thing if your Rotary club reflects your business and professional community.
    Bonus points if your Rotary club welcomes, appreciates and benefits from the array of people who make up our local and world community.

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  15. Being a 43 year Rotarian, I don’t accept this push to take over our organization that has done so much for humanity. DEI is an undercover op.

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    • Welcoming people from all walks of life who are interested in putting service above self and living Rotary’s ethical values only serves to grow our ability to serve our communities. Having been in Rotary for so long, you must remember when women were finally allowed to join in the late 1980’s – an extremely impactful and positive move for our organization. What about DEI feels like an “undercover op” for you?

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      • Lizzy – I am an analyst by profession – facts – data – logic – have served me and my clients well – “nuance” leaves me cold – as I said previously, “equity” is not a good concept – simple ideas can be expressed simply – equality is straightforward – in my work complex ideas demand the question – why? in my experience, complexity often means less straightforward, obfuscation and deception – if you feel that this is a personal attack – my point has been already made. In this world the execution of simple logical useful steps not done well – leads to excuse, misdirection and lack of accountability. I refer you to our current Federal Government Administration. The four way test is enough. If more is needed, the fault is in us, not the idea. If you are a religious person – Lucifer was cast from heaven because his model was to force people to be good – there would be no option, no choice. no freedom, no individual accountability. His plan was rejected.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the thoughtful response George. You say, “The four way test is enough. If more is needed, the fault is in us, not the idea.” I would say that you are right on the money here. I think The Four Way test is proof that DEI is a part of Rotary. We are asked to be honest, fair and friendly in all that we think, say or do so as to build goodwill and benefit all. But as society evolves and the plight of certain groups is brought to the forefront, we have to be prepared to adjust our individual behaviors to keep them in line with our four important questions. It’s a simple case of when we know better, we should do better. I refer back to my previous example of when women were not allowed in Rotary. We had The Four Way Test back then, but were we truly following it? Even today, there are clubs that are still not welcoming to women. If DEI is reinforced from the very top of Rotary, it sends a strong message to clubs that we’re serious about following that Four Way Test.

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      • Lizzy if you are aware of clubs not currently allowing women, then why don’t you go to the top now and have them set those non complying clubs straight.
        We have the rules, we have the 4 Way test , simply enforce the current rules.
        You say you know of clubs still not allowing women then tell us which clubs and we will help you challenge leadership to enforce our Rotary rules. We don’t need DEI to give us the desire or courage to challenge Clubs not in compliance.
        Not interested in DEI it’s a waste of Rotary resources.

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  16. Pingback: Why DEI is the ‘right thing’ for Rotary | Rotary Club - AIRC

    • Valuing diversity, equity and inclusion is not political. It’s common sense for any organization that seeks growth. There are no politics or religion in Rotary.

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      • How equity is defined is political. Equity in opportunity is something that we can all rally behind. However, Rotary appears to be taking up the mantle for equity in outcomes. Equity in outcomes requires the same result for all, without any consideration for the blood, sweat and treasure that went into achieving the outcome. It’s ridiculous and I will not back it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Joseph Well I’m sorry you see it that way. As with all things, applying The Four Way Test points me in the right direction. If there’s something I can do to make a situation more equitable, I would do so in the interest of building goodwill and better friendships and in the spirit of being beneficial to all concerned.

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