Thinking and Working Politically and Inclusively: How We’ve Done; Doing Better

Dec 10, 2018 by Sarah Swift Comments (0)
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This is the final of four posts reflecting on the linkages between gender awareness and politically sensitive approaches to programming known as Thinking and Working Politically (TWP).

The first blog in this series addressed my personal epiphany regarding the potential for thinking and working politically to narrow our focus in a way that limits the space for critical considerations around gender and inclusion--and reflects on new resources to help us do this better.  The second blog addressed the integral nature of gender and inclusion to any effort to think and work politically. The third and most recent blog posted explores how gender analysis and political analysis can be merged to promote inclusion - including where, if at all, the two lenses conflict.

Please note that while the principles discussed can be applied to all aspects of inclusion, the current resources are focused on gender, as a key dimension. As further learning becomes available, we’ll look to share more.

In development, we often confront a trade-off between immediate impact and our goal of partner country self-reliance.

It is within our power to attract more qualified people to work within key partner governments by topping up salaries - but no one thinks we should do that forever.

We treat HIV infections today, and save thousands of lives which remain vulnerable to our shifting priorities in the absence of more systemic changes.

And sometimes we choose to leverage the interests of elite groups to achieve key policy reforms, such as land title, while we defer pursuit of a more inclusive social contract to another day.

An internally displaced woman and her baby living in a flood-affected community of Itahari, Nepal/ Sarah Swift, USAID

Such decisions matter. The significance of decisions around inclusion transcends the inherent compromise around our ideals, because we understand inclusive societies to be more resilient, peaceful, productive, and sustainable.1 And yet, TWP calls upon us to acknowledge that all the positive outcomes we wish for may not go together or at least not as quickly as we might like.When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was running for president in 1932, he urged American youth to “pursue truths relentlessly and to look at them courageously” as the only path toward “remaking the world.”2  I return to these words as I struggle with painful truths, personal or professional.  It takes courage to acknowledge that we compromise our ideals; yet, if we do not acknowledge this, we risk making these compromises unconsciously.

Garment Factory, Chittagong, Bangladesh/Sarah Swift, USAID

Having previously surprised myself by such compromises in the midst of our Political Economy Analysis (PEA) practice and training, I hope to be more aware of them in the future, and maybe even to help find more inclusive pathways. In support of this goal I eagerly absorbed the guidance note from the Gender and Development Network (GADN), “Putting gender in political economy analysis: Why it matters and how to do it”. Reflecting upon the gap in exploring the inclusion dynamics within the political economy of particular challenges, the note guides practitioners through an approach to improve understanding of the role of gender and exclusion in development challenges, and explore alternative pathways toward change. It seeks to remedy the limitations in our imagination, stating: “In a context where men dominate visible positions of power and have shaped most of our institutions, rules, and social practices over time, it is easy for our analysis to identify male leaders and the institutions they are involved in as being most relevant to change, and focus the rest of the analysis on better understanding them.”3 

Displaced persons living in a flood affected community, Itahari, Nepal/Sarah Swift, USAID

Understanding the interests - and the power - of quieter voices. The GADN note stresses the importance of having an inclusive team shape the analysis, mitigating the risk that key stakeholders and paths to change rest unexplored. Ideally, the PEA would also incorporate expertise in gender analysis, a recommendation emerging from cases studies conducted by Development Leadership Programme.4  Often, we could do more to promote inclusive data collection processes, through focus group discussions, or simply by consciously targeting our effort toward ways that seek out quieter voices, whether within a community, government, business, or NGO. GADN then describes a process of gendered stakeholder mapping and analysis (see figure) using the example of access to justice in rural Bangladesh. While similar to other stakeholder mappings, the process is undertaken in a deliberate way to ensure that those with less visible power are not neglected. Gendered Stakeholder mapping and analysis, using the example of access to justice in rural Bangladesh

The gendered PEA delves into the usual explanatory factors, but with an added focus on differential impact on women and girls. In the example from Bangladesh, where a standard PEA would ask about the legal rights of different groups, a gendered PEA would seek to know “what legal rights women and girls have in Bangladesh or, in the case of customary/religious law, a specific location within Bangladesh.”

Finally the note encourages teams to think through different pathways toward change with this (paraphrased) framework of questions:

  1. What are the underlying causes of the problem for different groups of women and men?
  2. What are the possible responses? Which parts of the problem would be addressed with each? How would these affect women and men differently? Are these responses feasible given the context?
  3. Which individuals, groups and organizations can drive these changes? Under what circumstances could groups with less obvious sources of power be change agents? Which groups are likely to resist change and how might these be co-opted or blocked?
  4. How can programming play a positive role?

This strikes me as a beginning, and something to pursue through our PEA practice, so that we do not forget:  whatever our objective, how we work toward it may have real consequences, positive or negative, for gender and inclusion. I’ve been reflecting on our practice to date - and on those PEAs where I personally engaged.

Man belonging to an indigenous group working as a gamekeeper in Kahuzi Biega National Park, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo/Sarah Swift, USAID

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where we sought to understand the drivers of biodiversity loss in Kahuzi Biega national park, we were guided through the park on land their community once inhabited. In Bangladesh, while exploring the forces inhibiting the organization of workers and improvement of conditions in the garment industry, we met women garment workers, as well as young girls and boys in factory-based daycare. by indigenous men, working as gamekeepers 

Children being cared for in the daycare of the Serina Garment Factory, Chittagong, Bangladesh/Sarah Swift, USAID.

In Nepal, exploring incentives for behaviors that manage the risk of disaster, we spoke with men, women, and children of all ages, displaced by conflict, now managing the hazards of life in the flood plains.We saw their faces - and sometimes heard their voices - but did we truly invest in understanding their perspectives, their needs, and any power they offer to change the context?  In some cases, perhaps.  In others, I’m confident that we did not. I lacked the tools to grapple with their exclusion, and maybe also the courage to fully recognize it.  I hope, with support, to do better in reflecting on the needs of different individuals and groups, and ultimately, to achieve a more thoughtful balance between pragmatism and ambition, in ways small and large.

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1 See http://publications.dlprog.org/ARM_PoliticalSettlements.pdf.

2 FDR address to Oglethorpe university, 1932,  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=88410.

3 Rebecca Haines and Tam O’Neil, “Putting gender in International UK political economy analysis: Why it matters and how to do it”, Practitioners Guidance Note, May 2018. 

4 Helen Derbyshire, Sam Gibson, David Hudson and Chris Roche “Politically Informed, Gender Aware Programming: Five Lessons from Practice”, February 2018.

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Playing the Game to Change the Rules: Thinking and Working Politically to Advance Inclusion

Dec 4, 2018 by Sarah Swift Comments (0)
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Cover of Time Magazine, June 14, 1926 featuring Carrie Chapman Catt, and highlighting her simple roots as an “Iowa Farmers Daughter.”, http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19260614,00.html

This is the third of four posts reflecting on the linkages between gender awareness and politically sensitive approaches to programming known as Thinking and Working Politically (TWP). I will be posting one additional blog next week.

The first blog in this series addressed my personal epiphany regarding the potential for thinking and working politically to narrow our focus in a way that limits the space for critical considerations around gender and inclusion--and reflects on new resources to help us do this better.  The second blog addressed the integral nature of gender and inclusion to any effort to think and work politically. 

The final blog, to be posted shortly, will reflect on recent experience within USAID, and consider the path forward, including tools to support an effective merger of considerations around gender and inclusion. 

Please note that while the principles discussed can be applied to all aspects of inclusion, the current resources are focused on gender, as a key dimension. As further learning becomes available, we’ll look to share more.

Click here for other blog posts in this series.

At the turn of the 20th century, little in the American women’s suffrage movement inspired optimism.  Leadership of the new National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) had rested for a decade with two elderly “radicals,” Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton courted controversy and took pride in a “special mission” to “tell people what they [were] not prepared to hear.” 1 In this atmosphere of confrontation, progress toward women’s voting rights seemed stalled.

After 1900 the strategy shifted. While Stanton had demanded suffrage on the basis of strict equality, the NAWSA now argued for women to have the vote, not because they were equal to men, but because they were better. Framed by the image of women as mothers, pious and pure, women’s suffrage was promoted as a path toward more moral governance, guiding the movement into the mainstream.

Victory Map.  See  See https://brilliantmaps.com/1919-womens-suffrage-victory/.

Carrie Chapman Catt, self-identified as an “Iowa farmer’s daughter,” embodied this approach. She assumed leadership of the NAWSA for the second time in 1915, and launched a new “winning strategy.” Statewide campaigns would press for suffrage in at least 36 states. Women voters would pressure their elected leaders to pass a Constitutional amendment. States where full suffrage had already passed would focus on the national campaign. In states where full suffrage was not politically viable, partial suffrage would be pursued.2

Women, marching for suffrage, use the words of Woodrow Wilson to further their cause. https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/woodrow-wilson/pictures/woodrow-wilson/women-suffrage-parade-supporting-wilson

When the U.S. entered World War I, the NAWSA embraced the war effort within its mission, thereby attracting a new and influential member to its supporting coalition - President Woodrow Wilson. Previously noncommittal on the question of suffrage, Wilson went before Congress in 1918 to argue for full suffrage as a vital part of the war effort. “We have made partners of the women in this war,” he reflected, asking “Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?”3

None of these strategies achieved immediate or independent success--not even the support of the President. Together, they ultimately yielded dramatic change: In 1919, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed; when ratified in 1920, American women were guaranteed the vote. 

I thought of the suffragists while reading work from the Development Leadership Program (DLP) which discussed application of principles of Thinking and Working Politically (TWP) to advance inclusion - or “playing the game to change the rules.” 

Carrie Chapman Catt - sometimes called “the general” - didn’t require our instruction to think and work politically. Yet, the approach is not automatic. As donors supporting inclusion goals, we face our own hurdles, including the potential for our assistance to distort a movement and impact its sustainability. I’m left wondering: when promoting inclusion, is working politically really separable from working with gender awareness?  Are there tensions between the two?

Lacking an easy answer, I turn to the cases and am struck by the stories of two programs where donors sought to promote locally grounded inclusion.

Change makers participating in the We Can effort; see “Change Making: How We Adopt New Attitudes, Beliefs, and Practices” (photographs by Ann Jyothis, Fausto Aarya De Santis, Frederik Renander). https://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/our-work/gender-justice/ending-violence-against-women/we-can

WE CAN, a 2004-2011 campaign supported by the UK and Dutch Governments and Oxfam is a case of playing the game to change the rules. The campaign involved hundreds of organizations in 16 countries seeking “to challenge and change entrenched attitudes that support and justify violence against women [VAW] at the individual, community, and society levels.” Employing a “change maker” approach, participants were encouraged to reflect on their own practices, end VAW in their lives, and talk to 10 others about it. The campaign targeted men, suspending judgement to enable men who acknowledged past violence to become part of the solution. By 2011, the program had signed up around 3.9 million change makers, with 7.4 million people participating in related activities. Half of all change makers were men, a crucial factor in the campaign’s success. 

Through the change maker approach, the campaign broke down a large and sensitive problem and made it accessible—finding spaces where participants saw possibilities to actually do something.  The specifics varied according to the context; hence, the strategy’s success partly depended on decentralized approaches to implementation.

Notwithstanding their success, concerns were sometimes raised in the course of strategies targeting men. Some saw the messaging as reinforcing the role of men and boys as protectors of women. Seen in this light, through its efforts to encourage the participation of men, the campaign failed to challenge - and may even have reinforced - underlying power imbalances.

Central Java Community Assistance Program: business owner Mrs Mantu Suwarni (Lorrie Graham/DFAT). http://publications.dlprog.org/CS2.pdf

Another case comes from Indonesia, where women confront challenges with persistent inequality, reinforced by laws and social norms. The Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (MAMPU) works to support the collective capacity of women to influence policy and resource allocations. Partner organizations, selected based on their capacity to promote change, are supported to build networks, a shared vision, and collaborative approaches to women’s empowerment. Building connections with reform-minded leaders at all levels of government is a major part of the strategy. A review of the program indicates that MAMPU partners are increasingly positioned to influence key policies nationally, along with growing village-level networks, membership in local groups, and engagement on local priority issues.

Reflecting on these and other cases, I find myself questioning the assumptions that we make about TWP. The literature contrasts gender analysis - with its attention to individual and household dynamics - to TWP described as focused on higher level, more formal dynamics. Citing this as a tension, it calls for extending the definition of TWP to encompass individual, household, and community-level dynamics. I always assumed such dynamics to be woven throughout TWP. I’ve explored them in my own PEA experience, as well as within our recently updated PEA guidance. As the TWP community grows, clarifying these understandings becomes more important. 

Other lessons are more straightforward. Supporting local actors as they develop the strategy can help to manage the risks these stakeholders confront, develop local leadership capacity, and ensure that any compromises are locally owned. And while many associate TWP with a focus on broadly impactful policy reforms, the intermediate objectives and measurements of politically informed programs can be very modest. The increased membership of a community organization - even a single man’s change of heart - can be transformational in the long term.

Susan B. Anthony with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ca. 1880-1902. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

 And so Susan B. Anthony reflected to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1902, writing just before the latter’s death, “We little dreamed when we began this contest...that half a century later we would be compelled to leave the finish of the battle to another generation of women. But...they enter upon this task equipped with a college education, with business experience, with the fully admitted right to speak in public - all of which were denied to women fifty years ago. They have practically one point to gain - the suffrage; we had all.”5  

 

_____________________________

1 Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. Eighty Years & More: Reminiscences 1815–1897. Northeastern University Press; Boston, 1993, p. 372.

2 See https://brilliantmaps.com/1919-womens-suffrage-victory/.

3 See full text of speech: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~aslagell/SpCm416/Woodrow_Wilson_suff.html.

4 See http://publications.dlprog.org/CS8.pdf.

5See https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2014/julyaugust/feature/old-friends-elizabeth-cady-stanton-and-susan-b-anthony-made-histo 

 

Getting it Right When Thinking and Working Politically: Gender and Inclusion Matter

Nov 27, 2018 by Sarah Swift Comments (0)
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This is the second of four posts reflecting on the linkages between gender awareness and politically sensitive approaches to programming known as Thinking and Working Politically (TWP). Over the next 2 weeks, I will be posting two additional blogs. The first blog in this series addressed my personal epiphany regarding the potential for TWP to narrow our focus in a way that limits the space for critical considerations around gender and inclusion - and reflects on new resources to help us do this better. The next blog I will post explores how gender analysis and political analysis can be merged to promote inclusion--including where, if at all, the two lenses conflict. The final blog will reflect on recent experience within USAID, and consider the path forward, including tools to effect merger considerations around gender and inclusion. Please note that while the principles discussed can be applied to all aspects of inclusion, the current resources are focused on gender, as a key dimension.  As further learning becomes available, we’ll look to share more.

As I became more immersed in the world of “Thinking and Working Politically” (TWP), I was alerted to what seemed a surprising lack of attention to the impact of factors related to gender and inclusion on the exercise of power and politics.  And so I began to ponder: how would a thorough integration of gendered aspects of power and politics change what we know as TWP?

A principle of TWP is that how we work toward a goal impacts local ownership and sustainability beyond achievement of any objective alone. Inclusion is part of this “how.” In the absence of a gender and inclusion lens, we risk missed opportunities to further inclusive societies - whether by engaging with inclusive groups of local leaders or framing issues in ways that support inclusion - while we pursue other goals. At worst, donor programming may inadvertently reinforce exclusionary social norms. Moreover, where we limit our focus to more obvious expressions of power, we may overlook more transformative and sustainable pathways to change.

Thus, remembering gender and inclusion in the midst of TWP is less a merger, and more a matter of simply doing TWP correctly.  

 Participants in the Peace Leadership Programme consider the visual record of one of their workshops, Yangon, Myanmar.  Credit: Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, http://www.centrepeaceconflictstudies.org/cultivating-systems-and-self-awareness/

This point was illustrated in case studies of gender and TWP (reflected upon in a previous blog) in particular one describing the Australian-funded Peace Leadership Programme in Burma, which convenes women leaders to promote peacebuilding. The program uses gender analysis as a lens through which to understand the broader political landscape as the country seeks to transition from authoritarian military rule, even as the military carries on a campaign, displacing hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state. The gap in women’s decision-making power and formal role in peace processes, it argues, reflects a structural power imbalance. In turn, the limited involvement of strong women leaders hinders the effectiveness of peacebuilding efforts - something the program seeks to address.

While the story is overwhelmingly one of the complementarities - even the inseparability - of an inclusion lens and TWP, it also highlights a possible tension.  Exclusive focus on the women best positioned to impact peace efforts would leave many others from lower strata of society or power unrepresented. The program balanced its immediate, politically informed peacebuilding mandate with a longer term vision of inclusive social change, seeking to build diverse representation in each leadership cohort, and involving elected officials, but also NGO leaders and others who have demonstrated leadership in less formal ways.  

The importance of incorporating the contributions of women to peacebuilding efforts has long been recognized. This is less the case when it comes to supporting the contributions of women to the full spectrum of economic sectors, including construction.  The Bangladesh Skills and Employment Program, “Sudokkho,” supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swiss Development Agency, promotes gender and social inclusion while maintaining a primary focus on skills development and employment. 

Ayesha Akhter, Electrical Instructor trained through the Suddokkho Training Centre, Bangladesh.  Credit: Suddokkho Programme (Screengrab: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGHuIp7qRVQ) 

Driven by growth potential, Suddokkho selected two sectors of focus: the garment industry, where women comprise the majority of employees, and the overwhelmingly male construction industry. Suddokkho employs a number of approaches to mainstream gender and inclusion, including a gender adviser to identify how each intervention can be more gender aware. The program also directs pilot interventions at particular challenges, such as enabling women’s employment within the construction sector. For example, experimenting with supporting married couples to work as teams, where husbands effectively “chaperone” their wives as they negotiate entry into the sector. In this way, Suddokkho is expanding employment opportunities, while also addressing broadly entrenched gender norms - little by little expanding local understandings of the work that women can do.

In the case of Suddokkho, and many other examples, a more inclusive approach to programming begins with inclusion on the team. This entails working to instill and reflect values within the team, and making them more effective when seeking to impart those values within workplaces.

These cases illustrate that TWP is only strengthened - both, pragmatically and as a reflection of our ideals - by an unequivocal embrace of gender and inclusion as elements of power. Moreover, they highlight the potential to pursue broader goals around inclusion without compromise to the original programmatic objectives--as with Suddokkho, which successfully promoted employment and skills development, while also shifting gender norms within the targeted industries.

Fundamentally, they also demonstrate the need for this approach to begin with what we can best control - ourselves. Our approach to work within our teams and definition of the challenges that we confront provide a critical foundation to successful efforts to merge political sensitivity and gender awareness. 

Which recalls the words of Gandhi:  “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”  It is perhaps, at least, a beginning. 


 

Thinking and Working Politically... and Inclusively

Nov 15, 2018 by Sarah Swift Comments (0)
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This is the first of four posts reflecting on the linkages between gender awareness and politically sensitive approaches to programming known as Thinking and Working Politically (TWP). In the coming weeks, I will be posting three additional blogs.

The next will discuss the integral nature of gender and other inclusion analysis as a part of TWP. After that, I’ll explore how gender analysis and political analysis can be merged to promote inclusion--including where, if at all, the two lenses conflict. The final blog will reflect on recent experience within USAID, and consider the path forward, including tools to an effective merger considerations around gender and inclusion.

Please note that while the principles discussed can be applied to all aspects of inclusion, the current resources are focused on gender, as a key dimension. As further learning becomes available, we’ll look to share more.

For other blog posts in this series see: https://usaidlearninglab.org/library/thinking-and-working-politically-and-inclusively


Photo Credit: Portrait of Machiavelli by Santi di Tito (cropped), marked as public domain.

“How we live is so different from how we ought to live that he who studies what ought to be done rather than what is done will learn the way to his downfall rather than to his preservation.” - Niccolò Machiavelli

Photo Credit: Photograph of Mohandas Gandhi, Elliot & Fry/Getty Images.

“All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” -Mohandas Gandhi

 

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I envision our work as a mythical tug of war. On one side is an ideal—the image of the world as it ought to be, and of myself and my colleagues as we should be living and working; on the other—the inexorable pull of pragmatism.

This tension has become such a fixture in my life as a development professional working within a bureaucracy that I often forget it exists. I was reminded of it a couple of years ago in the midst of debating the focus of a case study for our Political Economy Analysis (PEA) workshop. We had settled on an old favorite - the story of land reform in the Philippines, implemented by the Asia Foundation under a cooperative agreement with USAID. The story offered actual results and a compelling video that captured its success.

And then, one colleague broke the consensus to ask - “Where are the women?”

It was a fair point. The video tells the story of three Filipino men who engaged in work that positively impacted the lives of thousands of Filipino men and women. Yet, the women in the video were silent. Women on the team listened attentively around a conference table and typed with attractively manicured fingers. Other women smiled wordlessly as they held up their new land titles, while men described the difference those titles made to their lives. Beyond these optics, the story focused on the importance of male-dominated university networks and social spaces to finding workable solutions, emphasizing those points with images of cigarette smoke and beer.

The realization was unsettling. I recalled PEA interviews where men spoke past me to connect with another man - and the times I declined the lead on an interview because the stakeholder would relate better to a man. Such decisions made sense as we pursued the best information around thorny development issues...but they also made me feel just a little bit smaller.

We decided to use the video - and the Philippines case study - for all the reasons that we liked it in the first place. But we also concluded that this was a tension to lean into. We initiated conversations within our trainings, sometimes awkwardly, acknowledging that we had more questions than answers about the balance between political feasibility and the value of inclusion.

We are fortunate that others have also been thinking about these knotty issues. The Development Leadership Program (DLP) at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom recently produced a number of resources looking at how political sensitivity and gender awareness can be merged in programming. It takes into consideration the literature and digs into a number of programs that sought an effective balance between attention to gender dynamics, the value of inclusion, and pragmatic, politically aware approaches.

The work argues that “politically informed” and “gender aware” efforts have operated on tracks that rarely intersect, hindering our accurate understandings of the context. The case studies highlight two manifestations of the intersection of gender and Thinking and Working Politically (TWP): gender as a key dimension of power to be understood, regardless of objective; and the application of TWP principles into programs aimed at inclusion. In the stories, I also see some synthesis of the two: cases where actors work politically toward any goal with attention to the impacts (positive or negative) on gender and inclusion.

The DLP resources will illustrate the possible tensions when balancing political sensitivity with gender awareness, and paint a picture of what it looks like when the lenses are effectively merged. Yet, they left me wanting greater practical guidance on pursuing this balance. For this, I was excited to see the guidance note from the Gender and Development Network (GADN), on gendered PEA. Addressing the need for such a tool, the note says “political economy analysis is often so focused on understanding how things are that it misses seeing what and who are absent from power and politics, and fails to imagine how things could be.” This resource is one that I think can help us overcome such failures in imagination.

I’ve been reflecting on these resources, which I’ll share in future blogs while I struggle to respond to the fundamental question: How can we, like Machiavelli, recognize the world as it is, while we also channel a bit of Gandhi, and remember just how much we are a part of that world?

Perhaps, some of this thinking and resources, may help us achieve this balance, and avoid conflating realism with complacency. Change too, is inevitable, and we may well be surprised by the direction or magnitude of that change. And, even as a minor actor in the system, who we are and how we work may help steer those changes in one direction or another.

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