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Learning is changing – and businesses will need to change too

Education chalkboardThere is a pattern to the disruption of industries – change happens slowly, with a few early-adopters taking a technology and innovating, but not always in the optimum way.  Then it happens quickly – and a whole industry can come tumbling down.  Take digital music, which had been around a few years before Apple took the technology, reached the masses and brought the music industry to its knees. The same happened with digital photography – which gained an early foothold, but not until the smartphone came along did consumer behaviour completely change in a way that the photographic industry failed to predict.

Massive open online courses (MOOCS) will disrupt university education. Distance learning courses have been around for years, and have a particularly strong history in the UK, with the Open University founded back in 1969. But only now is there a convergence of trends that will cause an explosion in online education and change our university system forever.  The recession has hit middle-class parents hard and low income families harder, right at a time when university fees are rising. Technology has raced on, to the point where institutions can deliver a sophisticated degree programme at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree.

Coursera partners with 62 Universities from 14 countries to deliver free online education to anyone who wants it. In only a year it has attracted 3.2 million global users and, earlier this year, has had 5 of its courses given college degree status.

Udacity has a similar mission to deliver high quality, low cost education. Founded by Google X founder Sebastian Thrun, it is a heavy-hitting entrant to the educational space and has recently collaborated with the Georgia Institute of Technology to launch an Online Master of Computer Science degree that is making US Universities twitchy.  As Time Magazine says “Georgia Tech’s announcement….is a game changer that will have other top-tier universities that offer degrees in computer science scrambling to compete.”

In the next few years, universities will have to demonstrate that their on-campus offer really delivers an education and experience beyond that which online courses can deliver. The danger will be that only the wealthy can afford them. An earlier, bigger, danger is a massive negative economic impact for those universities who are behind the curve or don’t have the ‘name’ or financial backing as high end degrees become more accessible through online learning. We will surely see many smaller and less prestigious universities disappear within the next 20 years.

The combination of this disruption to the education system with the increasing automation of knowledge careers and the influence of the value system of Generation X mean that the traditional campus-based university degree may return to a position where only the very academic or wealthy few will make the investment.

Generation X parents have been hit hard by the recession.  They are relatively happy with risk and will be seeing and living the changing nature of education and work. They won’t the feel the need to encourage their children to go make a huge investment in a campus degree if there is no clear benefit.  Even if their family is wealthy enough to afford it, Generation Z may well agree with their parents that the money is better used to fund online learning, a deposit for a flat, or invest in a business idea.  Entrepreunership will become a career-choice in itself.

The impact on business will be that employers will have to look harder for talent.  Or at least, the relatively straightforward ‘milk round’ will no longer be a viable source of candidates, as graduates will be not be gathered in number in central locations.  On the other hand, there will be more graduates from prestigious universities as they reach a larger online student body, so employers will need to find new ways of differentiating between them.  Many of the brightest young people may not even be graduates. The whole landscape will change and businesses will have to reshape around it in order to manage diverse streams of candidates. The “one size fits all” graduate programme is likely to become a thing of the past as businesses are forced to integrate new young employees from many different attainment backgrounds – and those employees expect an individualised career path tailored to their talents and objectives.

It’s a lot of change and it will be a challenging transition.  But businesses and employees alike will gain a huge amount from the better recognition and understanding of the diversity of talents, backgrounds and life goals that are the reality of human existence, and not always fully represented by a college degree.


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Building innovative companies using the powerful disruptive force of the Connected Generation (Part 1)

Building innovative companies using the powerful disruptive force of the Connected Generation (Part 1)

Competitive dynamics are shifting and the rules for success and failure are being rewritten across almost every industry and every business function. Exciting new innovative business models are emerging every day and you don’t have to be a fresh upstart to be a leading innovator. A recent study by Fast Company on the most innovative companies for 2013 shows that established companies Nike, Amazon, Safaricom and Target (the latter was founded over 110 years ago!), make up part of the Top 10 most innovative companies. However, the study also reveals that being legacy free helps as six relative newbies: Square; Splunk, Fab, Uber, Sproxil and Pinterest; capture the other top ten places and in doing so lay claim to the accolades that go with being a leading and successfully disruptive company.

These top ten innovative companies have two things in common; an overwhelming desire to disrupt their competitors by re-imagining the ways things are done and, they are also guided and driven by leaders who come from what we at TomorrowToday call the Connection Generation.

The Connection Generation is a cohort of innovation vanguards and change agents. As a rule of thumb, they were born sometime from the mid to late 1980’s until the early 2000’s and subsequently lived their adolescent years after 1995 growing up just as personal computers started to become ubiquitous in everyday life. This generation has been connected, communicating, content-centric, computerised, community-oriented, and continually clicking since they can remember. However, being a member of the Connection Generation is attitudinal factor rather than entirely age related, as we shall see later.

Astute companies are recognising the importance of creating a workplace that attracts and inspires talented members of the Connection Generation. By 2020, across the United States, Europe and the BRIC countries, this generation will make up 40 percent of the population and by then, they will constitute the largest single cohort of consumers and employees worldwide.

Business leaders take note, this generation is already rewriting the rules for success and failure and will be one of the greatest forces for disruption and empowerment the world of work has ever known. They are unhindered by preconceived notions of how things should be done, and their digitised view of the world ensures that they can imagine entirely new ways of doing things. We predict that this generation will drive changes in the world of work that will have as far reaching an impact as the industrial revolution had 200 years ago.

To support this claim we share with you, in Part 1 of this two series article, how the rules for competitive advantage have changed and why. In Part 2 we show why these changes in competitive advantage play naturally into the hands of the Connection Generation and in doing so we also provide you with a framework and new business script for building a competitive advantage in an era of turbulent change.

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The Kids Aren’t Playing Around Anymore

The Kids Aren’t Playing Around Anymore

For a few years now, our researchers at TomorrowToday have been predicting what Generation Y might do when they grow up. This generation was first dubbed “The Millennials” by Neil Howe and William Strauss (see this book, for example), and were defined as the generation who would graduate High School in the new millennium (born from 1984 to 2000). Our team, who look more globally rather than simply at American culture, suggest that they are best defined as the generation born after 1989. We’ve also called them the “Digital Natives” as they have lived their whole lives with text messages, emails and the world wide web.

However you define them, the oldest of them is now in their mid twenties. With an education behind them, and those character defining young adult years in full swing, we’re finally seeing what we’ve been predicting for some time: this generation is going to be a generation that is civic minded, activist, take-no-nonsense and will work together to activate their communities for causes they believe in.

All around the world, we’re seeing evidence of this. The #occupy movements that started in New York, spread across the US and into Europe were a start. Yes, they might not have had their goals and aims sorted out clearly at the start, and didn’t have the Boomer-savvy to make a huge impact, but they nevertheless got a generation onto the streets and chanting about something. Secretly, I believe, most Baby Boomers were actually quite happy to see this. For most of the last two decades, Generation X (born in the 1970s and early 80s) have been a “whatever” generation, too pragmatic to get too worked up about anything, and certainly not idealistic enough to hit the streets in protest. The great protests of the 1960s were becoming a distant memory, especially for American Boomers. But now the kids have started it up again.

In some parts of the world has been more than just a mild nuisance. The Arab Spring last year saw revolutionary change sweep across North Africa and the Middle East. The youth in Iran are bubbling and waiting for an opportunity to make more of their “Green” revolution. We see this all over the world, actually. Young people rioted in London last August. There have been almost constant marches in Spain by young people desperate to find employment. These are not games these kids are playing now.

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‘Mind the Gap’ is now available in Kindle

‘Mind the Gap’ is now available in Kindle

My award winning and best selling book, “Mind the Gap” has just been released in electronic format and is now available in Kindle and other e-pub formats.

My publisher, Penguin, has finally completed a worldwide deal with Amazon to release all Penguin titles on Kindle and is also now releasing its full back catalogue in e-format. This has taken too long, but it’s brilliant news now that it’s finally happened. The process will probably take a few months to complete.

It’s great news for me, as my books are now available in 21st century formats.

‘Mind the Gap’ is my best selling book about understanding different generations. I completed a major update and revision in November 2011, and this is the book now available in Kindle. Penguin have also priced it very well at half the price of the paperback. You can now buy it from Amazon.co.uk.

My other books are also available.

‘Future-Proof Your Child’ is for parents of pre-teen children, to help them parent a wired generation of kids into a bright future. Buy it on Amazon.co.uk Kindle here.

‘Navigating Your Career’ is for anyone still working or about to start working, and presents five steps to building a career in a new world of work. Buy it at Amazon.co.uk Kindle here.

At last, I can feel part of the 21st century as an author.

If you’ve been waiting for the e-versions of my books, I hope you enjoy them. Looking forward to your feedback and comments.

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Podcast: Introducing the generations and an Updated ‘Mind the Gap’

Podcast: Introducing the generations and an Updated ‘Mind the Gap’

I have spent the last two weeks in South Africa, promoting my new book, ‘Navigating Your Career’ and the updated edition of my best selling book, “Mind the Gap” (see details and purchasing options here).

As part of this tour, I did a number of media interviews. One of them was a half hour with my original co-author of ‘Mind the Gap’, Sue Grant-Marshall, who now hosts a book show on Radio Today. This is now available as a podcast here.

You’ll hear an overview of the different generations, and a discussion on why understanding the value systems of those older and younger than yourself is so important in every aspect of your life.


I’d love to hear your feedback here.

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What we can learn about marketing, sales and branding to Gen Y from Justin Bieber

What we can learn about marketing, sales and branding to Gen Y from Justin Bieber

My colleague and business partner, Saffron Baggallay runs our training company out of our Johannesburg. She’s also our team’s resident “Gen Y” guru, and had these insights earlier this week:

On 4 June 2012 Justin Bieber became the youngest person ever to appear on the cover of Forbes magazine. He has also been ranked as Forbes’ third most influential celebrity (based on his income and fame), after Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey. If you look at the list of names on the top 100 list as of June 2012, he is also the only person listed under the age of 20. These are not the only things that Justin has pioneered. I don’t think that anybody has ever been this famous at such a young age before (the guy was only born in 1994), certainly not as a solo artist. Nor has anybody so young made so much money so quickly. Justin has personally made $108 million in the last two years; and $55 million this year, primarily through record sales and tours (157 tour dates across two dozen countries). Since 2009 he has sold 15 million albums, grossing $150 million. In a digital age, that’s pretty impressive. I don’t think any other artist has used social media tools so effectively to acquire and maintain his fame the way Justin has. Much like MTV helped launch Michael Jackson’s career; and he became the pop phenomenon of his generation, so Justin is the first social media super star and certainly the King of music for his generation.

So, here are some amazing facts about Justin:

  • @JustinBieber has 21 million Twitter followers (that’s more than anyone else on earth apart from Lady Gaga (who ranked 6th on Frobes’ top 100 list) and as Justin would say himself, Lady Gaga still had more off-line fans before on-line ones when she first started, which was the opposite for him.
  • Justin has 43 million Facebook friends, which is more than Barak Obama (the other social media phenomenon) and Mitt Romney have put together.
  • Justin’s first performance at Madison Square Gardens in New York City sold out in just 22 seconds.
  • Justin’s YouTube channel was the biggest in the world before he even had a record deal.
  • It didn’t just happen for Justin. He and manager Scooter Braun worked hard for three years to build his brand on YouTube.
  • Justin has sold 1 million bottles of his ‘One Less Lonely Girl’ nail polish.
  • Justin’s perfume Someday made $60 million worth of sales in its first 6 months.

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Switching off the sun: Preparing for the next generation in the workplace

Switching off the sun: Preparing for the next generation in the workplace

Hannah (the daughter of a colleague) was strapped in her car seat as her parents headed off for a weekend away. Hannah is a bright, engaging two-year-old and no doubt had thought plenty of thoughts from this particular vantage point, one that I might add she was well accustomed too – as are most two-year-olds.

On this particular occasion, bright early morning sunshine streamed in through her window. After a short while, Hannah’s voice was heard: ‘Mommy.’

‘Yes, Hannah.’

‘Please can I have the remote control?’

Allow for a quizzical parental pause here, familiar ground for any parent of a two-year-old.

‘Huh? A remote control? What do you want with the remote control, Sausage?’ (Parental term of endearment . . . an entire subject of its own!)

‘I need to switch off the sun, it’s getting in my eyes.’

Hannah’s request reveals a world view that believes that there is a remote control for everything under and including the sun. After all, in Hannah’s world there are remote controls for the gates, the garage doors, the car and house alarms, the TV,  VCR, DVD/MP3, the satellite dish decoders as well as remote phones, cellphones, mouses (should that be mice?), keyboards, toys and just about anything you can imagine.

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The Future World of Education

Education is perhaps not central to TomorrowToday’s focus on the future world of work – but tomorrow’s businesses are surely reliant on today’s students! An article by Larry Summers in the New York Times caught my eye recently. Summers served as US Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and followed it up as President of Harvard University until 2006. Not without controversy, he was the guy who resigned after suggesting that a lack of women at the high levels of science and engineering could be because of a “different availability of aptitude”. In any case, his article really got me thinking. Businesses have evolved almost out of recognition in the last 10-20 years, with structures, products and interactions with customers that couldn’t even have been predicted. Yet university education (and indeed much of the education system) has barely changed. Contact with students can be limited to a few hours a week, there appears to be little real effort to harness technological advance and all the while fees are rising. Why would a Gen Z student choose to spend three years of their life at university when they could achieve so much else in that time? In a time when information is widely and freely available, what can and should universities be offering that sets them apart and adds real career-enhancing value for the student, rather than mountainous debt and a great social life.

Summers identifies 6 ways in which he hopes and expects education will change:

  1. Education will be more about how to process and use information and less about imparting it.
  2. An inevitable consequence of the knowledge explosion is that tasks will be carried out with far more collaboration.
  3. New technologies will profoundly alter the way knowledge is conveyed.
  4. “Active learning” helps professors interact with their students through the use of media and collaborative experiences.
  5. Despite globalisation, mastering a foreign language will become less important (for native English speakers) as English becomes more widely used.
  6. There will be a greater focus on the analysis of data and information.

There are already some interesting innovations to be found.  The Floating University is an initiative by The Jack Parker Corporation and Big Think, that makes available videos and texts by world experts and is currently being used by Yale and Harvard to supplement their courses. Classroom time can then be focused on interaction, discussion and much-needed ‘face time’.

Even bigger than this, a fantastic TED video by Sir Ken Robinson asks whether the whole concept of education needs to be re-thought.  Why are we so set on sending all our kids to university at 18 anyway?  Take a look if you aren’t one of the 2.3m who already have – it’s hugely thought-provoking and entertaining.

TomorrowToday’s own Graeme Codrington has also recorded a 12-minute vidcast on the role of education in the new world of work, and what we need to do to change schools and universities to provide us with the type of people we need for the future world of work. You can see it here.

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How well do you really know your Gen Y employees?

How well do you really know your Gen Y employees?

As Gen Y employees continue to enter the workplace with their own approach and new expectations of what the world of work should be like, research continues to provide valuable insights for employers. Two recent reports were particularly interesting.

In the first, reported on in the Huffington Post on 2 Feb 2012, Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Millennial Branding LLC, partnered with Identified.com (a data and analytics company) to research how Generation Y (defined by them as current 18-to-29-year-olds) is using Facebook to define their personal lives while often disregarding their professional identity. The research provides insights into social media usage, but also offers broader comment on how Gen Y want to work.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Gen Y may seem cavalier to some with their social media obsession and their desire to have more control over their time, activities, and work culture – even as rookies. We need to not begrudge them this so-called “perk”, but rather learn from multi-generational wisdom and meet them half way in their use of technology.
  • Work/life integration is something employers are finally addressing, since burn out, stress related illness and toxic work environments continue to cause serious problems in the workforce. Gen Y’s requests for this “balance” up front could generate a paradigm shift and help to restructure the workforce since balanced, healthy people perform better on the job.
  • Gen Y must still strengthen their professional competencies in written and verbal communication, active listening, empathy, resilience, and self awareness. The Huffington Post author, Caroline Dowd-Higgins (author of the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered”) says, “Whether you are an entrepreneur, working in a Fortune 500 company, or a non-profit organization — these skills are a deal breaker and imperative for professional success.”

The second piece of research comes from one of my favourite researchers on generational issues, Jennifer Deal of the Center for Creative Leadership. She has spent most of the past decade working hard to dispel generational theory myths and prick the “pop psychology” bubbles that exist around this topic. She needs to be listened to. She has written an excellent article for Booz and Co’s Strategy + Business blog. You can read it here, or an extended extract below.

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Selling to Generation X: you must connect to their families – in their way!

Selling to Generation X: you must connect to their families – in their way!

One of the keys (not the only key, but a very important key) to advertising and selling to Generation X is to connect to their families. Gen X are the generation who were born and grew up in the 1970s and early 80s. They are not “the young people” anymore, although this is still how Boomers think of them.

They’re in their 30s and early 40s, have families, mortgages and mid life issues. They’re as settled as they’re ever going to be (although this isn’t what it looked like for the Boomers). One of the things they’re very focused on is their families. Some of these middle managers, for example, are turning down promotions – not because they don’t want to move up in their companies, but because they don’t want to move their families to a new location (their son just made the first sports team at school, and they don’t want to move him). And they will prioritise family time more than any previous generations.

So, if you want to impress them, get their attention, touch their emotions and connect with them, it would be a good idea to connect with their sense of family values. But it’s a new type of family these days, isn’t it?

Microsoft’s latest campaign attempts to do just that – and they get it mainly right. “It’s a great time to be a family” is the tag line, and the series of adverts portray families using technology to do traditional family activities in exciting new ways. Here’s a great example (see more below):

They are really well put together and strike a chord with Gen X. To connect with Gen X you need to show that you understand the new rhythms and relationships of today’s families. They’ve also been adapted for different cultures (there are some excellent changes made for different countries in the homework video, for example – I like the Indian version best; compare it to this).

But they also show the limitations of traditional advertising these days. If you’re an Apple fan, for example, you’d be very unlikely to change across to a PC with Windows based on these adverts – you might even laugh a bit as you realise how simple graphics, videos and multimedia are on Apple compared to Windows. And if you own a PC, you get Windows standard, so I am not sure what these adverts are trying to do. Surely, Microsoft can funnel their creativity (and awesome budget) into something that achieves a lot more.

The connection with a generation’s value is important – in fact, a vital starting point. But you then also need to connect with the experiences of that generation and communicate with them in ways that make sense to them. This series of adverts from Microsoft does the first thing brilliantly, but falls short on the rest. But, that’s better than most, who don’t even pass the first connection hurdle with this middle aged, but still much misunderstood, generation.

Some other adverts from this series include:
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Updated edition of ‘Mind the Gap’ available now

Updated edition of ‘Mind the Gap’ available now

Exciting news: My best-selling book, “Mind the Gap” originally published by Penguin in 2004 has been fully revised and updated and is now available. Buy it from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com or Kalahari.net.

Nearly 25,000 copies of the book have already been sold, making one of the best selling South African published business books of all time.

And now it’s even better.

This new edition includes a few new chapters. You’ll find our predictions for the latest generation, and maybe you’ll agree with what we’ve decided to label it (there were many options). We’ve added information (and some predictions) about today’s children, and completely revamped the section on Generation Y.

You’ll find an entirely new section at the end of the book about how to apply generational theory around the world, to different countries, regions and people from different economic classes. Our team has spent the last ten years applying generational theory on every continent, and we’ve learnt a lot from people all around the world. We hope these new chapters distil some of what we have learnt into helpful lessons for you.

You’ll also find a few new ‘quick info boxes’ scattered through the book. We know from feedback that these were a much enjoyed feature of the first edition. We have updated almost all of the first edition lists too.

There is not one single chapter that hasn’t had a thorough update. Some chapters have been almost rewritten, while others have had significant additions and expansions. The bibliography and further reading list at the end has also been updated to reflect some of the latest research into generations.

The only downside is that right now the book is not available in ebook format. Penguin, the publisher, are still negotiating author rights across the world for all their authors, and have not yet released any of their titles in ebook format. They are hopeful this will happen in early 2012. Watch this space for more info. Or just buy the physical book for now! Thanks for your patience on this issue – I can promise you it’s not our choice that this book is not yet in ebook format.

I continue to be humbled by the way the concepts presented in this book have had an impact on so many lives. We’ve worked around the world with big corporate organisations, where we’ve helped teams develop new products, revolutionize marketing and advertising, and significantly improve HR, talent management, recruitment, leadership and teamwork. We’ve worked with governments and states, and helped to influence policy that will last for decades. We’ve had the pleasure of helping non-profit organisations, schools and charities, as well as many faith-based organisations (from many different religions).

But my favourite moment of the last few years was when a middle-aged woman came up to me after a presentation recently. She had tears in her eyes. She explained that about five years earlier she had seen me present ‘Mind the Gap’ as a keynote at a community centre one Friday evening. She had been battling to connect with her 14-year old son, and was afraid she was losing him. That talk helped her to understand how her son saw the world, and opened up a bridge into his life for her. Her tears accompanied her thanks: ‘You saved my relationship with my boy’.

Of course, my team and I have done no such thing. All we have had the privilege of doing is showing people things they probably already knew about themselves and others. But we seem to have found a way to do it that rings true and spurs people to change and action. We’re thrilled at all the stories we’ve heard since we wrote this book. We’re honoured to have touched so many lives.

We hope this updated and expanded edition of our book continues to have an impact.

Don’t forget: it’s the edition with the orange cover! ISBN: 9780143528418

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Living Up To Expectations: Understanding Generational Expectations in the Workplace

Living Up To Expectations: Understanding Generational Expectations in the Workplace

Not only are expectations subject to personal nuances, they can be further understood by looking at broad generational values that underpin behaviour.

Generational Theory as originally promoted by Howe and Strauss, two Yale and Harvard trained political economists, suggests that there are value bases to each generation that have been shaped during our formative years and influenced by local events with a global reach. Of course a great deal has since been written and debated when it comes to this theory and arguably TomorrowToday, having presented and taught Generational Theory is some 45 countries, has more experience in this area than any other consultancy or institution globally. The theory provides a helpful framework from which to explore and understand generational differences – and generational similarities.

When it comes to workplace expectations it is useful to understand that each of the Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y generations have distinct and at times contradicting expectations. Let me highlight just three dominant expectations for each of these generations.

Let’s start with a brief look at the Boomers (those born from around 1947 – 1969). Boomers are ‘in charge’ – a fact that needs to be acknowledged as one ramification of this reality is that it is Boomers who set the policies, determine the rules and create the management blueprint.  When you step into a work environment the chances are you will be stepping into a Boomer environment. Being prepared for this will help you adjust!

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors

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