Muskat, Birgit & Mair, Judith (2020). Managing the event workforce: Analysing the heterogeneity
of job experiences. In Violet V. Cuffy, Fiona E. Bakas & William J.L. Coetzee (Eds.), Events
Tourism: Critical Insights and Contemporary Perspectives. London: Routledge, (Chapter 3).
Managing the Event Workforce:
Analysing the Heterogeneity of Job Experiences
Birgit Muskat, The Australian National University, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2905-6836
Birgit is Senior Lecturer at the Research School of Management at The Australian National University.
Birgit’s research interests include experiences management, knowledge transfer and innovation; her
research focusses on tourism, hospitality and events.
Judith Mair, University of Queensland, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2447-3377
Judith Mair is an Associate Professor and Discipline Leader of the Tourism Discipline Group in the UQ
Business School, Brisbane, Australia. Her research interests include the impacts of events on community
and society; consumer behaviour in events and tourism; the relationship between events and climate
change; and business and major events.
Keywords: Event workforce, Heterogeneous Teams, Job Experiences, Job Satisfaction, Volunteers
This chapter contributes to a deeper understanding of the event workforce. We analyse the
heterogeneity of job experiences and whereas most event research focuses on understanding the
event activity, event visitors and impact of events we take an ‘inward’ perspective. Thus, we shed
light on the organisational context for the event workforces as this ‘inward’ perspective remains
to be largely ignored in the events research domain (see for example Liu, 2018; Mair & Whitford,
2013; Muskat & Deery, 2017). Specifically, we focus on analysing job experiences and job
satisfaction and the underlying intrinsic and extrinsic motivators in the heterogenous event
workforce. A critical examination of job satisfaction is highly important as satisfied employees are
healthier (Bowling et al., 2010), more positive towards their organization, more effective (Judge et al.,
2017) and committed (Tsai & Yen, 2018), and more easily develop positive relationships with their
customers (Menguc et al., 2016).
Job satisfaction is the result of an individual’s appraisal various factors of an overall job
experience (Jeanson & Michinow, 2018; Locke, 1969); and a contextual understanding of job
experiences and satisfaction in the event context is important as the extant literature in the human
resources and organisational behaviour domain has shown how job satisfaction positively
influences employee’s attitudes, commitment, wellbeing (Bowling et al., 2010; Tsai & Yen, 2018;
Wright & Cropanzano, 2000) and results in better team and leadership performance, organizational
effectiveness (Braun et al., 2013; Judge et al., 2017).
Traditionally, the event research domain has been strongly ‘outward-looking’ e.g. event visitor
numbers and economic impacts are in the centre of interest. However, literature in the events area
is gradually taking a more critical turn, with a rejection of the instrumentalist and neoliberal
discourses around event ‘management’ and a move towards a better, and more holistic,
understanding of how events can and should be understood (Lamond & Platt, 2016). ‘Inward’
perspectives – organisational, and staff perspectives to date have been rather ignored, which
might be routed in an overall lack of interest in understanding the enabler side in the tourism
(Zehrer et al., 2014) or hospitality (Solnet et al., 2016). Additionally, we argue that existing
literature has failed to adequately take into account the significant diversity in event workforces.
To fill this gap, we posit to understand the factors that make the role of event managers distinctive
or provide insights for employees and volunteers on how to perform best in this unique workplace
setting. We address the overlooked research question: What constitutes job satisfaction for the
event workforce? Job satisfaction is the result of an individual’s appraisal various factors of an
overall job experience (Jeanson & Michinow, 2018; Locke, 1969; Sirgy et al., 2001). We argue
that job satisfaction for event staff, requires a deeper understanding as the unique characteristics
of events including the pulsating nature, the temporary and fast-paced dimension, and the
exceptional heterogeneity of the workforce shapes organisational processes. The unique
organisational context that is created shapes the individual event-job experiences and
consequently determines job satisfaction for both event employees and volunteers.
Subsequently, our aim is to provide insights that are relevant to event managers, specifically in
relation to job experiences and job satisfaction management. We synthesise the unique
organisational aspects of events and theoretically explore how the event workforce, consisting of
permanent employees, casual employees and unpaid volunteers, experience job satisfaction. In
doing so, we contribute towards the move to a less instrumentalist and more holistic
understanding of events and the employees and volunteers that run them. In this chapter, we
focus mainly on major events which attract tourists to a destination, and which are large enough
to have a complement of full-time permanent employees. However, elements of the arguments in
this chapter will also have relevance to smaller events, even those entirely organised and staffed
by volunteers. Given the growing number of events and the resulting need to professionally
manage the event workplace, implications for management practices are discussed.
Job Satisfaction and Job Experiences at Events
Job satisfaction is formed through a number of components that matter to each employee and is
created through the appraisal of attributes of the individual’s job experience (Jeanson &
Michinow, 2018; Locke, 1969; Sirgy et al., 2001). Motivation theory can be used to explicate
underlying needs and values that motivate and influence job experience (Deci & Ryan, 1985;
Tietjen & Myers, 1998). The identification of a staff member’s motive helps to determine what
drives them to pursue certain goals—job satisfaction arises with the achievement of these goals
(Gagné & Deci, 2005). Sirgy et al. (2001) explain that when employees’ values and needs are
met, the behavioural response of ‘relaxation’ (job satisfaction) occurs; however, non-fulfillment
of needs leads instead to stress and tensions – and ultimately job dissatisfaction.
To better understand these motivational factors, Porter & Lawler’s (1968) dichotomy of
intrinsically and extrinsically controlled factors of motivation has often been used to categorise
concrete factors that accumulate towards job satisfaction (Borzaga & Tortia, 2006; Lee et al.,
2015; Kuvaas et al., 2017). Intrinsic motivational factors are based on a staff member’s inner
needs, values and beliefs. Amabile et al. (1994) explain that intrinsic motivational factors include
being self-determinant at work, working autonomously, mastery and challenge related to work,
involvement in tasks, as well as curiosity, enjoyment related to work and the work environment.
In contrast, a staff member’s extrinsic motivational factors are externally controlled and relate to
the evaluation by the organisation. Factors include recognition from the organisation,
competition, money or other tangible incentives (Amabile et al., 1994). Whereas intrinsic
motivation is difficult for an organisation to influence, extrinsic motivation is largely controlled
by organisations. Extrinsic reward systems can, for example, include monetary bonuses, career
advancement, and official recognition. Recognition that leads to career progress (Scarpello, &
Campbell, 1983) can also be an important factor for job satisfaction, too – especially if career
progress is of importance to the staff member.
Organisational behaviour literature confirms that high levels of staff job satisfaction are significant for
both the individual and the organization. Satisfied employees are healthier, more satisfied with their
lives and show higher levels of wellbeing (Bowling et al., 2010; Wright & Cropanzano, 2000). When
organisations meet or even exceed their workforce’s expectations, staff are satisfied and subsequently
develop a generally positive attitude towards their organization. This in turn leads to positive
behavioural outcomes, such as higher organizational effectiveness (Judge et al., 2001; Judge et al.,
2017; Koys, 2001), higher commitment (Tsai & Yen, 2018), better team and leadership performance
(Braun et al., 2013), and improved citizenship behaviour (Koys, 2001). Importantly, the marketing
literature also confirms that there is a positive relationship between satisfied employees and satisfied
customers (Menguc et al., 2016), which is particularly important for events, with close customers and
event staff interactions.
Studies suggest that there are differences in job satisfaction between employees and volunteers when
doing similar tasks (Pearce, 1983). Authors also find that achieving high levels of job satisfaction for
volunteers is even more important for volunteers than for employees, when predicting organisational
commitment and increases their intention to stay at the event (Bang, 2015; Bang et al., 2012; Williams
& Anderson, 1991) and fosters volunteer’s engagement at the event (Millette & Gagné, 2008). For the
majority of volunteers, autonomy is key antecedent to job satisfaction is autonomy, yet Bang (2015)
notes that there is a difference within between young and older volunteers; and job satisfaction is more
important to retain older volunteers than younger volunteers.
The Event Organisation: The Pulsating Nature
The chapter now turns to discuss the unique organisational context of events that is likely to
influence the underlying motivational factors leading to job satisfaction. As mentioned in the
introduction, the focus of this chapter is on major events, defined as “events that are capable, by
their size and media interest, of attracting significant visitor numbers, media coverage and
economic benefits” (Allen et al., 2011, p. 14). The first important and unique organisational
characteristic is the pulsating nature of the events organisation (Aisbett, & Hoye, 2014; Deery &
Jago, 2005; Hanlon & Jago, 2004). The pulsating nature is a result of the different phases of event
management (Muskat & Deery, 2017). The pre-event event phase is shaped by planning activities,
training and knowledge sharing, and recruiting of the event workforce. The event operations
phase is characterised by the instant need of the workforce to collaborate with each other,
regardless of whether they have known each other or collaborated before or not. High speed,
quick and effective decision making is needed during this relatively short phase to perform
successfully. After the event and with the commencement of the post-event phase, most casual
and volunteer workforces exit the event workforce immediately after the event.
Consequently, after the departure of most of the event workforce after, only the permanent
workforce remains and often there is limited time to reflect and celebrate and recognise
achievements in this phase, as the planning for the next upcoming event has just started (Muskat
& Deery, 2017). Most events operate with some full-time permanent employees but a large
number of casual and volunteers joining them during the event operations phase. While this is
the case to a certain extent for most events, this pulsating nature is particularly relevant for major
events which have a strong relationship with tourism in a destination. Hence, a small skeleton
staff work for the event for majority of the time, a substantial swelling to large numbers of staff
with various contract forms occurs in the run-up to, and during the event, and finally a dropping
away again to very small numbers takes place once the event is over (Hanlon & Jago, 2004).
Consequently, this pulsating nature determines staff fluctuations and influences social aspects,
including team cohesion, recognition of joint achievements and organisational learning.
The Event Activity: Temporary, Fast-paced and Short-term
The second unique characteristic of the events workplace is the temporary, fast-paced and short-
term dimension of the event activity. Yeoman et al. (2012) point out that the event activity, the
organizational processes involved, and features of the workforce are both temporary and ever
changing. Whilst this can potentially be a positive characteristic, given that temporary
organizations tend to have clear timelines and are well organized (Parent and McIntosh, 2013),
there are resulting difficulties that need to be reflected upon and managed by event staff. Another
implication of the temporary dimension arises in that event teams need to be put together at fairly
short notice and work intensively together, yet only for a limited period of time (Parent &
McIntosh, 2013), thus quick problem solving is a key task (Getz and Page, 2016).
The combination of the short-term, temporary organisational structure and the demands of the
work are reflected in a short-term orientation among team members. Moreover, and presumably
as a consequence of the pace of the event activity, the event workforce is recognized as having to
work extremely hard under stressful conditions (e.g., Van der Wagen & White, 2014). Arguably,
these job characteristics make it even more difficult for event managers to find the time to reflect
on the motivation of their staff, which is an important factor in levels of job satisfaction within
diverse teams. Event managers also have little time to find effective measures that increase job
satisfaction, taking into account the different values and attitudes of various team members.
In summary, both, the pulsating nature of events on the one hand, and the temporary, and short-
term dimension of the event on the other hand, means that it can be very difficult for event
organizations to attract and retain high performing permanent and casual staff, as well as
volunteers for this face-paced work environment. Attracting, and above all retaining suitable and
experienced permanent, casual employees and volunteers – and meeting their job expectations
and understanding their motivation – is presumably challenging. The time pressures and demands
on event organizers means an added layer of complexity in terms of management. There are some
overlaps between events and other types of tourism business, for example in relation to seasonal
tourism businesses, which also have to deal with fluctuating staff numbers; however, such
fluctuations are significantly more dramatic in the events context.
Event Teams: The Heterogeneity
This section discusses heterogeneity of event teams, the third factor that makes the event
organisational context unique and needs to be considered in terms of the event workforce’s job
satisfaction. We argue that with heterogeneity comes a variety of different values, beliefs and
needs of employees and volunteers that make motivational factors and subsequently job
experiences and job satisfaction complex to manage. In order to analyse what constitutes
heterogeneity in event teams, we first review the organisational behaviour literature on
heterogeneity in teams and second, we analyse heterogeneity as it relates to events.
Heterogeneous teams are often desired in workforce composition; they are more creative, and
often outperform homogenous teams in terms of performance (Jackson, 1996; Katzenbach &
Smith, 2015). Yet, many organizations perceive that diversity runs in tandem with unproductive
processes and can also lead to negative, ineffective outcomes (Nielsen Tasheva & Hillman, 2018).
Problems in functionally heterogeneous teams are often a lower willingness to share information,
a higher level of dysfunctional conflict and high staff turnover rates, which are all the result of
higher negative job experiences and lower job satisfaction (Bunderson & Sutcliffe, 2002). As
depicted in Table 1, the prevailing literature in management suggests there are five dimensions
of heterogeneity in work teams: demographic-, functional-, task-related dimensions of
heterogeneity, which might be considered to be more explicit and easier to capture for both
employees and managers — and further career-, and relations-oriented heterogeneity, which
might rather be subtler, and less visible:
“What managers (and some researchers) often ignore are the possible effects of the
relations-oriented diversity that might be present in such a team. Relations-oriented
diversity can shape behavior even when there is no association between it and the
team’s task-related attributes, because it triggers stereotypes that influence the way
team members think and feel-about themselves as well as others on the team” (Jackson,
1996, p. 57).
Table 1: Heterogeneity in Work Teams
Dimension of Diversity
Diverse age, citizenship, ethnicity,
Chatman & Flynn, 2001
Diverse specializations and work roles
in the team, etc.
Bunderson, & Sutcliffe,
Different educational level, formal
credentials, knowledge and expertise,
task experience, etc.
Jackson, 1996; Jackson et
Diverse attitudes, values, personality,
Jackson, 1996; Jackson et
Similar experiences or different past
experiences, in jobs, work
Beckman, Burton, &
In relation to events, it becomes clear that event workforces consist of high levels of
heterogeneity; functional heterogeneity in particular might be higher when compared to other,
more traditional and long-term oriented organisation. Functional heterogeneity also arises due to
different contract forms of the event workforce. Mair (2009) notes that the event workforce is
often made up of various alternative forms of employees. These include full-time and part-time
work for long-term and/or permanent paid employees; short-term casual employees; recurring
volunteers and first-time and long-time volunteers; as well as staff recruited and managed by a
range of external contractors (such as security and catering staff amongst others). Event staff
might have full-time or part-time contracts, might be casual/ temporary paid staff, or might be
volunteers; all of them have different levels of expertise, motivation and expectations about their
event job experience—so by extension, they will have different job satisfaction. In many
businesses, managers have to deal with a variety of staff types. For example, tourist enterprises
such as Visitor Information Centres may have a mix of volunteer and paid employees. However,
the full gamut of heterogeneity in the events context is almost unique.
This functional heterogeneity clearly indicates the likelihood of differences in job motivation and
drivers of job satisfaction between permanent and casual employees or volunteers (Bernhard-
Oettel, et al., 2005; Muskat & Deery, 2017). Full-time and permanent employees are often in
managerial roles and provide continuity in the long run for the event organisation. For permanent
employees, building long-term careers is likely to be one of the key motives to join the event.
Motivations of the permanent event workforce might be related to building an event career due
to the fast-paced and vibrant job environment but also in long-term capacity and competence
building, as well as earning rewards and recognition from the event organisation. This is arguably
more likely to be the case for major tourist-attracting events which recur each year, such as the
Edinburgh Festival, the Munich Oktoberfest or the Rio Carnival, as they are more likely to have
employment openings for full time permanent employees, and career progression opportunities.
Smaller events, such as those organised primarily for local communities, are more likely to be
fully organised and run by volunteers, thus do not offer such employment or career opportunities.
Events can be organised in both for-profit and non-profit context. Yet, for non-profit workplaces,
research has found that stakeholders tend to have a higher degree of intrinsic motivation. This is
because, traditionally, compensation levels are below market average and non-profit employees
are more likely to report that their work is more important to them than the money they earn
(Mirvis & Hackett, 1983).
In contrast, casual employees are more likely to have short-term interests or expectations about
their work for the event. Casual employees at events are hired as the need arises due high demand
in personnel during the event operation phase. Casual employment is less stable, and often
associated with less favourable job characteristics (OECD, 2002). The OEDC further notes that
casual employees usually receive less pay and benefits, and generally receive neither paid
vacations, nor unemployment insurance (OECD, 2018). Yet, there might also be a number of
positive aspects in being employed on a casual basis, such as more mobility, and higher flexibility
for the individual to explore and enter new working areas. Casual employees might also be
interested in pursuing a long-term event career and opt to screen a potential employer for
suitability, before then deciding whether or not to apply for a permanent job.
Thus, the motivation for casual employees to join event might be to benefit their personal
preferences, e.g. they might prefer flexibility in terms of daily work but may also be related to
the terms and flexibility of their working contract. Specifically, research has found that flexibility
in working hours, having the opportunity work extensively—and after hours outside the standard
weekly hours - are often key motivators for casual employees (Gottschalk & McEachern, 2010).
Other motives for casual personnel to join events might be the opportunity for entry or re-entry
into the workforce (Pocock et al., 2009). However, it is unlikely that casual employees are
motivated by, or committed to the event organisation itself, as their commitment is short-term
driven. This is, or course, unless the event organization provides casual employees with an
opportunity to build pathways into more long-term employment.
The third group that makes up the event workforce are unpaid volunteers. Volunteers have been
referred to as “the life blood” of events (Goldblatt, 2002, p. 110) and often highly outnumber paid
event personnel, especially during the operations phase of the event. Research has shown that
volunteers have different motives to join the event workforces (Holmes et al., 2010). Volunteers,
for example are motivated by the possibility to gain skills and competencies that lead to career
advantages, and they also use event experiences as a transitioning period from unemployment to
employment – similar to casual employees (Pocock et al., 2009). In some cases, particularly for
smaller community events, the entire event organisational team is composed of volunteers, thus
providing a wider range of skills development for these volunteers (Holmes et al., 2010). Yet,
other volunteers might simply seek a purely leisure and recreational experience from joining the
event team (Mojza et al., 2010).
Importantly, volunteers are not a homogenous group; instead, motivations to join the event differ
within the volunteer group (Clary et al., 1998). For example, Muskat and Deery (2017) found that
different motivations lead to different workplace behaviours and different willingness to share
knowledge and collaborate during events. Whereas unexperienced volunteers wanted to gain new
knowledge and learn, more senior and experienced volunteers were driven by self-actualisation
and would rather experiment or run things their preferred way. Hence, the more experienced
volunteers did not want to adhere to rules and guidelines and had less interest in collaboration
and knowledge sharing. Younger volunteers instead were motivated by gaining competences that
would serve them for their future careers (Muskat & Deery, 2017).
The literature outside of the event volunteering domain offers a number of motivations for
volunteering. For example, one of the seminal works on volunteer motivations was the Voluntary
Functions Inventory (VFI) presented by Clary et al. (1998). This took a functional approach, to
try to examine what function volunteering played for those who give up their time. They
concluded that there were six dimensions – values (volunteering allows an individual to express
values related to altruistic and humanitarian concerns for other); understanding (volunteering
permits new learning experiences and the chance to expand knowledge, skills, and abilities);
social (volunteering gives one opportunities to be with one's friends); career (volunteering can
have career-related benefits); protective (volunteering may reduce guilt over being more fortunate
than others); and enhancement (volunteering can allow someone to feel good about themselves).
Other work (see for example Edwards, 2005) identified different dimensions in the museum
volunteering context. These dimensions included personal needs; relationship network; self-
expression; available time; social needs; purposive needs; free time; and personal interest (in the
museum, or in one aspect of the collection).
Our chapter discussed an under-researched area in the events’ management research domain and
concludes that whilst event researchers have shown a great interest in understanding event
consumers, the employee – enabler side has been neglected. In summary, we posit that the
pulsating nature of event organisation, the temporary, fast-paced and short-term event activity,
and the heterogeneous workforce form a unique organisational context for events that have
implications for event management. Understanding these characteristics is important as studies
have shown that they affect the individual and lead to different workplace behaviour outcomes
during and after events (Muskat & Deery, 2017). Additionally, the chapter has unpacked the
significant diversity that exists within the event workforce, thus bringing a more critical and
holistic approach to event management research. The arguments in this chapter are more broadly
relevant to larger-scale major events, which play an important tourist-attracting role in a
destination, although elements of our argument are likely to be equally relevant for the
organisation and management of smaller community events. We now respond to the set research
question: What constitutes job satisfaction for the event workforce? and summarize how
organisational context influences job satisfaction for the event workforce.
First, we suggest, for the event organisational context, job satisfaction for permanent employees might
be a combination of both intrinsic (e.g. mastery of the challenge of the fast-paced work environment)
and extrinsic motivational factors, (e.g. recognition, incentive of attending the event, career progress).
Hence, we posit that the fast-paced nature of the event work environment and the vibrant atmosphere
constitute additional key aspects that are relevant for job satisfaction. However, whilst these motivating
factors might be relevant to those joining the events workforce in the first place, we argue that over
time, they might also become barriers to job satisfaction. High stress levels through constant exposure
to a rapid and dynamic workplace and changing tasks and workforce might impact job satisfaction in
the long-term. Practically, event managers could enhance job satisfaction particularly during the post-
event phase - appreciation of work with rewards and recognition, and by seeking and responding
to feedback (Sirgy et al., 2001). Further, event managers should be aware that high stress levels
and an ever-changing workforce might require some extra activities around personal resilience
and mindfulness to balance these.
Second, for casual event employees, job satisfaction is likely to be different again. Casual
employees are more likely to have short-term interests. Hence, key motivators might be flexibility
in working hours and even having the opportunity to work extensively for some time, to free up
time for other periods. Drawing on the literature, we posit that earning money and being flexible
with their time are the major extrinsic motivators; whereas curiosity in relation to the task and
work environment might be important intrinsic motivators (Amabile et al., 1994). However, some
casual employees might join for similar motives as some volunteers. For example, for some
casual employees, the event experience might be a pathway to permanent work and learning
opportunities might be important motivation factors. Most importantly, however, there is no long-
term commitment that links casual employees to the event, hence, to retain high performing staff,
event managers need to make an effort in managing their job satisfaction, as ties are certainly
weaker for this group of the workforce.
Third, unpaid volunteers have even more complex underlying drivers that lead to their job
satisfaction. It is clear that job satisfaction between employees and volunteers is different when
performing similar tasks (Pearce, 1983). Volunteers who are satisfied with their jobs show higher
commitment, engage more in their tasks and are even more likely to return and volunteer for the next
event (e.g., Bang, 2015; Millette & Gagné, 2008). The most evident difference between volunteers and
employees is of course that money is not a motivating factor for volunteers. Yet for volunteers’ high
levels of job satisfaction, other extrinsic factors might be even more important, including
recognition, and potential career advancement. Intrinsic motivators might be manifold and might
include autonomous work, mastery and the appreciation of challenge, as well as curiosity of the
work environment and enjoyment. In fact, the need to engage in autonomous work is one of the
key predictors for volunteer job satisfaction (Boezeman & Ellemers, 2009). For event managers,
understanding these is essential, as events activities cannot be successful without volunteers
(Goldblatt, 2002), and volunteers usually highly outnumber the paid permanent and casual event
workforce, and job satisfaction for volunteers has been found to be an essential factor in
predicting their intention to continue engaging in the event. It is notable though that event
volunteers are generally interested in the work and the experience. However, organisational
commitment is likely to be less strong when compared with permanent event employees. In order
to retain event volunteers, managers should consequently understand the drivers of volunteer job
satisfaction, and the importance of volunteer relationship-management.
Overall, we conclude that so far, event researchers have rather neglected to provide critical
insights and a deeper understanding of employees and volunteers. Our chapter posits that
demographic, functional, task-related, relation-oriented and career-related heterogeneity of event
staff shape underlying and diverse motivations; thus, job experiences and factors influencing job
satisfaction vary largely within the event workforce. Drawing on this, we suggest that future
research could conduct studies that provide empirical data to better understand this rather
neglected heterogeneous nature of the event workforce. Specifically, future research studies
might use motivation theory to understand differences in motives to join events, between
permanent, casual employees and volunteers. Further, studies could evaluate which leadership
styles influence the event workforce best or explore what constitutes good leadership in this fast-
paced, heterogeneous work environment.
In terms of practical implications, we recommend that event managers need to actively manage
job satisfaction and the job experiences of their heterogeneous workforce. Establishing routines
and mechanisms, for example, might enable managers to understand, reflect and communicate
job experiences and manage job satisfaction. Both the understanding and creation of practices is
essential, as job satisfaction leads to improved organizer effectiveness (Judge et al., 2017), higher
commitment of the workforce (Tsai & Yen, 2018), retention of both paid employees and volunteers
(Bang, 2015; Millette & Gagné, 2008)—and ultimately also to more satisfied event visitors (Menguc
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