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        The Social Entrepreneurs

Tactics of Hope social entrepreneur Taddy Blecher,
CIDA City Campus, South Africa


“Radical thinking is what makes social entrepreneurs different from simply ‘good people.’ They make markets work for people, not the other way around, and gain strength from a wide network of alliances. They can ‘boundary-ride’ between the various political rhetorics and social paradigms to enthuse all sectors of society.”

-John Catford, 1998


Vera Cordeiro


Vera Cordeiro, a physician in Brazil who began by setting up a health clinic, working with destitute children and mothers out of a horse stable.

Vera Cordeiro began Saúde Criança Renascer, or the Children’s Health Association, in 1991 as a new approach to medical care in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to fight poverty and ill health simultaneously. Through its signature five-point program of health, housing, income, education and citizenship, Renascer seeks to treat not only the immediate medical problem of an individual, but also the conditions that may have caused the ailment in the first place. As a clinical physician in the Psychosomatic Medicine Department at Hospital da Lagoa in Rio, she was exposed to thousands of children who were readmitted several times a year for the same illnesses. Vera believes that the greatest systemic treatment is not a particular medicine for a particular illness, but rather a holistic approach to patients’ overall health concerns, employment status and family needs. Beginning Renascer out of a horse stable in Rio, over the last seventeen years Vera has recruited an enormous network of volunteers, physicians, psychologists, teachers and community leaders to offer their expertise in one aspect of the five-point program. Taking one step at a time, the entire network of Saúde Criança has so far reached 20,000 people, breaking a vicious cycle of poverty and social exclusion in Brazil. As an example of how one social entrepreneur can be tenacious enough to affect the lives of so many, Vera was recognized as “The Most Influential Woman of Brazil in the Health Area” by Forbes Brazil in 2005, fourteen years after she started.

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Paul Farmer


Paul Farmer, a Harvard medical anthropologist and physician who began fighting to save lives after traveling to Haiti when he was eighteen.

In 1983, just before entering Harvard Medical School, where he is now a professor of medical anthropology, Paul Farmer helped to establish a community-based health project in Cange, Haiti, called Zanmi Lasante, or Partners in Health. With the aim of providing health assistance to a community of refugees, PIH has developed extensive programs in medical service for the desperately poor. PIH has slowly grown to include pilot projects in five additional countries profoundly affected by poverty, violence and epidemics of disease. Throughout its history, the guiding principles of PIH have been determined by the voice of the communities it serves rather than the ever-shifting demands of government policies and economics. Partnering with the public sector, PIH looks to improve community health infrastructure to: 1) care for its patients, 2) alleviate the root causes of disease in poor communities, and 3) share lessons learned around the world. Beginning with funding from just a single donor and a handful of volunteers, PIH has since grown internationally to include over 4,000 employees, volunteers, and community-based health workers.

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Trevor Field and Paul Ristic


Trevor Field and Paul Ristic, two advertising specialists who introduced a new way of bringing fresh drinking water to rural populations in Africa.

The PlayPump water system is an ingenuous, simple, low-tech solution for developing countries, where thousands die every day from lack of clean drinking water. Roundabout Outdoor, and its non-profit partner, PlayPumps International, have adapted a water pump technology that doubles as a merry-go-round. Children play and turn the merry-go-round, pumping clean water from deep in the ground to a storage container that is used for billboard advertising to generate revenue. The technology is replicable and scalable, as PlayPumps International plans to expand its operations with 4,000 new pumps to reach 10 million people across ten African countries by 2010. Trevor Field and Paul Ristic are the principles.

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Andrea and Barry Coleman


Andrea and Barry Coleman, a husband-and-wife team bringing better medical transportation services to the African continent based on a shared love of professional motorcycle riding.

Riders for Health provides vehicle maintenance for health physicians to reach remote villages in Africa. Many African countries have only one health physician per 20,000 people and hospitals that cannot be reached by rural villagers in an emergency, if at all. One in fourteen women dies in childbirth, as opposed to one in five thousand in developed countries. Andrea and Barry Coleman, with world-renowned motorcycle Grand Prix champion, Randy Mamola, founded Riders for Health to offer inexpensive transportation services to NGOs and health agencies in many African countries. The director of information and planning for the department of health in the Gambia said, “Without Riders, nothing would move. Our health programs would stop.” Recognized as “Global health heroes in 2005” by Time magazine, Riders for Health has the potential to scale its services across the entire African continent if it can continue to garner financial support.

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Liza Kimbo


Liza Kimbo, Kenyan social entrepreneur who has created a franchise model of medical clinics in remote areas run by unemployed nurses who sell life-saving pharmaceutical drugs at affordable prices to families suffering from treatable diseases.

In her native home of Nairobi, Kenya, Liza Kimbo works to deliver health care services to the rural poor, calling upon the resources of a pool of otherwise unemployed nurses. . As director of the Sustainable Healthcare Foundation, which operates the CFWshops to supply and sell basic pharmaceutical medicines at very low cost to rural people distant from hospital care, Liza has provided thousands of employment opportunities to nurses who were trained but unemployed by the government. With assistance from the organization’s successful model approach, nurses have started sustainable, profitable, and medically qualified CFWshops all over the country. With a background in health services, management, and finance, Liza has helped grow the franchise model from its first eleven outlets to over sixty, now serving 400,000 patients a year.

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John Wood


John Wood, a former Microsoft marketing executive who has applied his business instincts to fundraise enormous sums to build libraries and schools while providing girls’ scholarships in Asia and Africa.

John Wood, former Microsoft executive, founded Room to Read in 1998 to publish local books, fill libraries and construct new schools in the Himalayan Mountains. It all stemmed from a promise John made to a school headmaster while he was backpacking in rural Nepal that he would return with books for children to read. He did return a year later with 3,000 books to fill the school’s empty library. In his memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, John explains, “Did it really matter how many copies of Windows we sold in Taiwan this month when there were millions of children without access to books?” Scaling Room to Read over the last seven years since its founding, John has applied the rigor of business to improve systems of education, innovating an expansive growth model that will provide ten million children the lifelong opportunity of reading and learning by the year 2020.

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Ann Cotton


Ann Cotton, who has created opportunities each year for over 400,000 girls living lives of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa to get an education.

Ann Cotton’s on-the-ground exposure to extreme poverty in Zimbabwe in 1991 changed her life and, in doing so, the futures of hundreds of thousands of young girls in Africa. During that trip, Ann saw clearly the link between the lack of female education and extreme poverty. Since then, Ann and her team have built an organization that currently provides educational opportunities to over 400,000 girls each year in rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa. CAMFED works in partnership with local communities and ministries of education, using an approach that seeks to systemically break the cycle of poverty.

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Taddy Blecher


Taddy Blecher, an actuary and management consultant, who founded the first free university of higher education in South Africa.

Taddy Blecher’s vision of creating the first virtually free institution of higher education in South Africa has reinvented an entire method of education that is replicable, scalable and ultimately sustainable in any developing country. Students come from squatter camps and townships, and graduate with an accredited degree in business administration. In its unique approach of offering holistic, relevant, technology-enriched tertiary education at very low cost, Blecher’s CIDA City Campus has blossomed under Taddy’s stewardship, an impressive sign of hope in the economic and social transformation of the African subcontinent.

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Rodrigo Baggio


Rodrigo Baggio, a technology consultant who recycles computers for teaching purposes to bridge the digital divide for poor children in Brazil.

In founding the first Brazilian NGO committed to tackling the digital divide, Rodrigo Baggio has created a franchise model with the Committee for Democracy in Information Technology (CDI), in which communities receive donated computers to be used for lessons in finding employment, as well as social and civic engagement. Like so many entrepreneurs in this book, Rodrigo reaches people’s hearts with dogged determination for results, taking only “yes” for an answer. Bill Drayton documented that when Rodrigo first began CDI, he managed to convince Japanese businesses and the Inter-American Development Bank to give him their used computers, then persuaded the Brazilian Air Force to fly the computers home, then won over customs officials to accept the imported machines when his country was blocking most computer products at the time. Having now graduated over 700,000 CDI students, Rodrigo’s methods for fighting what he calls “digital apartheid” are being adopted globally.

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Matt and Jessica Flannery



Matt and Jessica Flannery, an American couple who wanted to start a profitable entrepreneurial business using the Internet to connect lenders in wealthy countries with low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world.

During the dot-com boom, Matt and Jessica Flannery were a young couple looking to start a business together that somehow could help others, but also was profitable. Despite the negative opinions from many “experts” as to why their idea would not work, Matt and Jessica created Kiva.org, leveraging the Internet to build human connections between lenders in the developed world and low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries. In just a few years, Kiva became a widely recognized success story among the solutions to fight global poverty, as it has connected tens of thousands of people around the world through web-based microcredit loans. Whether to support a motor parts shop mechanic in Cambodia, a shoe store retailer in Ecuador, or a peanut butter maker in Kenya, Kiva makes it possible for lenders with as little as $25 to choose where their money goes, and to track how that loan helps build an individual’s business, or even in some cases an entire community’s development.

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Marcelino San Miguel


Marcelino San Miguel, a businessman who founded the Dominican Republic’s first credit bureau, the profits of which he used to provide microloans to the poorest women in his country.

Fundación San Miguel Arcangel, a “Grameen Foundation USA” Partner Organization among the Kiva-sponsored microfinance institutions, provides loans to poor in the Dominican Republic where in 2004 58% of the population was living under the poverty line.. Overcoming a culture of resistance, including the refusal of commercial banks and the government to sponsor private microcredit initiatives, founder Marcelino San Miguel used the profits generated from selling his former company, the first credit bureau in the Dominican Republic, to initiate a highly successful lending program inspired by the Grameen Bank model.

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Audrey Codera


Audrey Codera, a young entrepreneur in the Philippines who began providing microcredit loans to alleviate poverty among the youth in her country.

The Philippine Youth Employment Network (PYEN) is a premier nonprofit organization, paired with an internally managed microfinance institution called YouthWorks, both of which share the same mission: to alleviate poverty by creating opportunities for entrepreneurial youth employment. “Youth” range from high school age to twenty-eight years old. Cofounder Audrey Codera has partnered with several major international youth empowerment initiatives to help promote PYEN’s mission, including SAGE (which was highlighted in the introduction to this book), the International Labor Organization’s Youth Employment Network and the Youth Employment Summit (YES) Campaign. Orchestrating a network of partners to collaborate on three shared goals, PYEN works on local, national and international fronts: 1) to conduct training, workshops and consulting for poor youth seeking profitable employment in the Philippines, 2) to offer microcredit loans at a 3% interest rate for entrepreneurial young individuals without substantial means to begin their own businesses and 3) to lobby policymakers and government legislators on behalf of youth empowerment, including the ability of young entrepreneurs to contribute significantly to their country’s economic development

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Priya Haji


Priya Haji, who is creating U.S. market opportunities for the products of poor artisans from thirty-four developing countries.

Priya Haji is the cofounder and CEO of a for-profit company that distributes throughout the United States handcrafted products made by artisans in developing countries. Ten percent of World of Good’s profits goes to its nonprofit foundation, which seeks to improve the standard of living of the artisans. This is a very scalable and replicable model using market forces and the profit motive to help alleviate global poverty and strengthen fair trade standards in the U.S. consumer market.

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Kailash Satyarthi and Nina Smith


Kailash Satyarthi and Nina Smith, who are working to end child labor in the rug industry in South Asia.

The RugMark Foundation, a global fair trade nonprofit, is dedicated to eliminating child labor in South Asia’s handmade rug industry. In India, Kailash Satyarthi first established RugMark in 1994, and Nina Smith launched its program five years later in the United States. Through their efforts, RugMark has leveraged its fair trade advocacy campaigns to influence consumers and carpet retailers in the world’s biggest market to purchase and sell only those carpets that have been properly certified as child labor free. A percentage of the sale price of certified rugs helps RugMark rescue and rehabilitate children they find in the factories. Nina and Kailash project that with just 15% of the U.S.-market share for rugs, RugMark could achieve its goal and stop child labor in the South Asian rug industry by 2020.

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Charlotte Di Vita


Charlotte di Vita, a “compassionate capitalist”, who has helped thousands of artisans in Asia, Africa and Latin America access international markets for their products.

Charlotte di Vita has spent years with impoverished, rural communities, working to create fair employment and training opportunities in Africa, Asia and South America. Founding the charity Trade plus Aid in 1997, she has always been a passionate believer in the power of ethical trading initiatives to effect real change in people’s lives. Always the 'compassionate capitalist,’ the same belief informs Charlotte’s latest venture as a potent social entrepreneur, the Whatever It Takes Campaign, a unique charity artwork project. Charlotte has collected over 1,000 personal drawings and messages of hope from more than 600 world leaders and celebrities such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Snoop Dogg and George Clooney. These messages of hope for the new century are featured on ethically manufactured products, which are sold to raise funds for charitable causes chosen by each contributor.

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Rory Stewart


Rory Stewart, who has created an initiative in Afghanistan to revive ancient Afghan crafts and rebuild the main bazaar in war-torn Kabul.

At thirty-four, British-born Rory Stewart has created Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is rebuilding Murad Khane, the historic bazaar in Afghanistan, in order to help preserve the local culture and provide employment and vital income to the people of the region. He lives and works in Kabul, where his kinetic energy, creativity and determination are all contributing to his vision of helping revitalize Afghanistan’s traditional arts to regenerate the old city. His work achieves social objectives through the creation of institutions that will be financially self-sustaining.

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Sasha Chanoff


Sasha Chanoff, the grandson of Russian refugees who has introduced new strategies in Africa for refugee and prisoner protection.

As the grandson of Russian refugees, Sasha’s identity is intertwined with his life’s work, Mapendo International, a world-leading innovator in strategies for refugee protection. A lifeline for forgotten refugees, Mapendo identifies and protects people fleeing war and violence whose lives are in imminent danger and who fall outside existing aid efforts. Of the 8 million refugees worldwide, Mapendo is devising strategies at scale to reach as many of the “forgotten ones” as possible.

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Karen Tse


Karen Tse, an American-born child of immigrants from Hong Kong who has developed an initiative to end torture and to support criminal justice systems in countries that lack a proper legal infrastructure.

Karen Tse, a former public defender and minister ordained at the Harvard Divinity School, was born and raised in Ohio by her parents, who had emigrated from Hong Kong in the early 1960s. With a sparkle in her eye, she emotes effervescent energy with grounded appeal in the practical, and often unglamorous, work of the day to day. Earning her law degree at UCLA and going on to become an established attorney at the UN, she has since founded International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), which promotes systemic change by training public defenders on the local level in countries like China and Cambodia and thereby working with governments, and not against them. Her approach is innovative, as IBJ represents the first citizen-sector organization that worked with China’s criminal law bureaus under formal agreement. She has also set out to design a global initiative to support grassroots reform in criminal justice systems everywhere.

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John Marks and Susan Collin Marks


John Marks and Susan Collin Marks, who help overcome deeply embedded hostilities among groups in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere by pioneering creative uses of television, radio and the arts to find common ground.

John Marks and Susan Collin Marks are not only deeply committed to each other but also share a commitment to a world defined by what unites us rather than what separates us. This positive, visionary perspective guides everything that Search for Common Ground has been doing since John founded the organization in 1982. The nonprofit now has 375 employees operating out of sixteen field offices in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States. Search for Common Ground employs a diverse toolbox of traditional techniques for conflict resolution, such as mediation, facilitation and back-channel negotiations. In addition, they have pioneered creative uses of television, radio, print journalism and the arts to help break down barriers between groups in seemingly perpetual conflict, such as the Palestinians and the Israelis.

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Heidi and Gary Kuhn and Family



Heidi and Gary Kühn, a former housewife and businessman whose professional and family lives are now dedicated full time to the eradication of land mines worldwide and the placement of agriculture seeds where those land mines were buried.

Roots of Peace is a leading innovator in the global eradication of land mines, which maim and kill over 26,000 people worldwide every year, nearly half of them children. Its mission is to turn fields of death into prosperous farmlands, restoring community values and peace by helping former war-torn areas grow “from mines to vines.” A cervical cancer survivor and mother of four, Heidi Kühn has united over 400 Californian vintners to support her efforts. Gary, Heidi’s husband, helped launch Adobe Acrobat after ten years of business leadership at IBM, and is now the executive behind the harvesting, distribution and vineyard training programs. Together, through Roots of Peace, the Kühns have achieved incredible successes, including the removal of 100,000 land mines and unexploded ordnances, and the training of 10,000 farmers in Afghanistan alone. With completed and ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Croatia, Iraq, Angola and Cambodia, Roots of Peace replaces seeds of destruction with seeds of life.

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Alberto Cairo


Alberto Cairo, an Italian doctor who has devoted the past seventeen years to helping innocent victims of past wars “get back on their feet” and live productive lives despite their physical disabilities.

Alberto Cairo moved to Afghanistan in 1990 to help land mine victims “get back on their feet.” Seventeen years later, Alberto’s greatest hope is that he will be able to “spend the next seventeen years doing the same thing, just doing it for more people and doing it better.” His infectious laugh and gentle touch make him a favorite among his patients. Alberto’s 300 staff members are all disabled former patients. They now have jobs, as well as dignity and empathy for those they now serve, making and fitting artificial limbs for over 2,000 other disabled people who come to the ICRC centers each year. They also help reintegrate patients into society by providing job training and microcredit loans.

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Tim Williamson


Tim Williamson, a business consultant and financier who has created financial incentives demonstrating the power of entrepreneurs to rebuild the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Tim Williamson, a former Wall Street stockbroker, tells a before-and-after story of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana. Between its inception in 2002 and September 2005, the Idea Village was the prominent non-profit engine for entrepreneurship in the city of New Orleans, developing a database of over 600 local entrepreneurial businesses that collectively employed more than 3,000 people and generated $150 million in revenue. Now, in the aftermath of Katrina, the Idea Village is helping to rebuild New Orleans, introducing an innovative approach to disaster relief that actively identifies and empowers entrepreneurs as the most fundamental pioneers of reconstruction.

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Rosalind Jones Larkins


Rosalind Jones Larkins, a woman raised in the New Orleans projects whose strategy of education is designed to help women made destitute by Hurricane Katrina.

One of the Idea Village’s newest projects is the Next Level School, providing employment training and personal rehabilitation for women afflicted by extreme poverty after Hurricane Katrina. Rosalind Jones Larkins was born and raised in the projects of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is included in this chapter not as a social entrepreneur who has already achieved incredible results, but because her Next Level School has pioneered a promising approach to education that could be replicated in all inner-city environments. It heals the spirit for students, mostly women, who have very little hope and nowhere to turn, and provides them with career skills so they can find a pathway out of poverty. Rosalind has written a book entitled Quitting Is Not an Option, about her own experiences growing up as the child of a single mother and an absent father, with accounts of repeated sexual abuse, rape, the murder of her first love, and an addiction to drugs while caring for two young girls. Having overcome such incredible hardships with remarkable resolve, despite the many relatives and friends who gave up on her, she eventually became the first of her family ever to graduate from college. Rosalind has since earned a degree in law and started her own practice. Above her own success, however, she is included in this book as a new social entrepreneur striving to introduce a model that can be replicated for students, who like her at one time, have no socioeconomic support system. They come to Rosalind’s Next Level Foundation, LLC.’s proprietary school to get back on their feet.

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Lynne and Bill Twist


Lynne and Bill Twist, a couple who, after traveling to the Amazonian rainforest, developed a program of “awakening” for individuals to realize how directly the industrial world has an effect on the natural world and indigenous cultures.

As the march for private capital exploitation has decimated entire tribes in South America, the Achuar people, from deep in the Amazon region of Ecuador, have reached out to the modern world to help preserve their most ancient and sacred way of life. Bill and Lynne Twist, the founders of The Pachamama Alliance, have responded in kind, bringing skills and innovations from the developed world to join the Achuar in a larger process of rescue and preservation, contributing to the creation of a new global vision of equity and sustainability to be seen by both the northern and southern hemispheres in a common future.

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Van Jones


Van Jones, a brilliant speaker whose work incorporates environmental solutions with employment opportunities for the racially marginalized.

Van Jones is the cofounder of the Ella Baker Center based in Oakland, California, an organization that fights for social justice for underprivileged people throughout the United States. Integrating his upbringing in the 1970s as an African-American male from west Tennessee with a law degree from Yale University, Van is an impassioned force that commands attention. Winner of the 1998 Reebok Human Rights Award, and recognized as an Echoing Green and Ashoka fellow, Van has created an initiative to make sure that the new wave of environmentalism that is taking hold in the United States also benefits underprivileged Americans rather than excludes them. Van calls it “a movement for eco-justice, not eco-apartheid.” In the next section, Van articulates his philosophy behind this new movement. The Ella Baker Center calls this new initiative the “Green-Collar Jobs Campaign” to create hundreds of new environmental employment opportunities in Oakland, California, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has adopted the philosophy for her national Green Jobs Bill

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Agung Prana

Agung Prana, who has engaged tourists and his local community with technology to restore coral reefs in Indonesia.

Agung Prana’s coral restoration project near his ecotourism resort in North Bali has restored the coral reef, reintroduced fish critical to the local fishing community and substantially helped his business. If done with community support, it is an approach to the restoration of coral ecosystems that is replicable all over the world.

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Andy Rossmeissl and Jake Whitcomb


Andy Rossmeissl and Jake Whitcomb, two college students who created a credit card company that funds renewable energy projects and carbon offsets with every purchase.

Inspired by a forward-thinking "Environmental Economics" professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, Jake Whitcomb and Andy Rossmeissl turned a class project into a growing business. Together, they created the Brighter Planet Visa, a rewards-based credit card that provides the opportunity for consumers in the United States to contribute to renewable energy projects and fight global warming with every purchase. Over the next five years, the Brighter Planet Visa credit card will offset the effects of several million tons of carbon dioxide.

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