FAQs On Creating a Girls Circle or Council for Boys and Young Men
We’ve provided commonly asked questions from people who are considering starting a Girls Circle or The Council for Boys and Young Men. If you have questions about Girls Circle or The Council that are not answered here, please contact us directly at (415) 419-5119. Please note that all of these questions are addressed in more detail in the Girls Circle Facilitator Manual and The Council for Boys and Young Men Facilitator Manual.

General FAQs (applicable to both models)

What is the best approach as a facilitator?

What qualifications do I need to be a facilitator?

Does One Circle Foundation work with youth directly or only with service providers?

What do I need to do to start a Circle or Council?

What about LGBTQ youth?

How many participants should I have in my Circle or Council and what should the age range be?

What’s the best way for me to create safety, trust, and cohesion in my circle?

How can I find a Girls Circle or Council in my area?

Should everything that’s said in the group be kept confidential?

Should I charge for participation in the Circle or Council?

What about parents? How can parents be involved?

How do you protect youth from potential abuse?

Can I attend a Girls Circle training if I plan on facilitating a Council for boys and vice versa?

 

The Council for Boys and Young Men FAQs

Why do boys and young men need The Council program?

How do you motivate boys to join?

Can The Council have female facilitators?

Is The Council a Rites of Passage Program?

How is The Council a Culturally-Competent Approach?

Why the name "Council" instead of "Circle" for boys?

Girls Circle FAQs

What do girls want?

What do girls like most about Girls Circle?

Should good friends be in the same Girls Circle?

Is Girls Circle a therapy group? It sounds like one.

Is it okay for a mother to facilitate a Circle with her daughter?

How should I publicize my Circle if I don’t work for a youth serving agency?

Can Girls Circles have male facilitators?

 

General FAQs (both models)

What is the best approach as a facilitator?
To be the “guardian” of the Circle or Council in order to keep youth feeling safe. To bring relevant themes and interesting activities and create a safe space for them to talk about the issues in their lives. Refrain from lecturing, or giving advice, but rather, ask questions that encourage them to express their own ideas. Be genuine. Facilitate an environment where they can think through things and make their own decisions with the groups’ support.

What qualifications do I need to be a facilitator?
Facilitators can either be adults and young adults who have taken one of the two-day Facilitator Trainings or adults who purchase a Facilitator Manual and Facilitator Activity Guides on how to lead and implement either the Girls Circle or Council program (depending on which model will be utilized.) While attending the training is certainly the best option for preparing facilitators, adults who cannot attend training can do so successfully if they follow the curricula carefully and structure their program and groups according to the principles and format outlined in our Facilitator Manual. The most important qualification is to be a person who youth can trust to be caring, a great listener, responsible to keep the climate emotionally comfortable for the youth, and to know when to involve other community members as resources for the group and any individual member should the need arise.

Facilitators’ backgrounds and skills are most often in the helping professions and education, such as social workers, nurses, counselors, therapists, and teachers. In addition, prevention specialists, coaches, probation officers, psychologists, graduate students, ministers, business people and laypersons who are active in youth development are often well prepared to experience the training. People who care about youth, and provide the attention, dedication, positive attitudes, and legal and ethical responsibilities that are integral to the Girls Circle and Council for Boys and Young Men models, are generally well qualified to receive the training.

Does One Circle Foundation work with youth directly or only with service providers?
One Circle Foundation is not a direct-service organization. We developed three models for youth and families – Girls Circle, The Council for Boys and Young Men, and Women’s Circle – and we train service providers and provide curricula to service providers that allow them to facilitate these models in their communities.

What do I need to do to start a Circle or Council?
If you can’t attend a training, you can purchase the Girls Circle Facilitator Manual or Council Facilitator Manual and one or more of the Facilitator Activity Guide(s). The training gives you the opportunity to practice key skills, but many people start groups around the country just by reading the Facilitator Manual and using the Facilitator Activity Guide(s). You also need others to support your efforts. A team of committed individuals to support a facilitator can really make a program successful.

What about LGBTQ youth?
Girls Circle and The Council are inclusive and welcoming for LGTBQ youth and all youth.

Did you know that at any given time, 1-15% of youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning? All youth need acceptance and belonging, and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming youth experience greater social exclusion, harassment, and bullying, putting these youth at greater risk for depression, suicidality, substance abuse, homelessness, and involvement with the legal system.

We emphasize emotional and cultural safety in Girls Circle and The Council. Facilitators aim to develop group members' capacities as allies amongst diverse youth - not allowing derogatory terms, finding commonalities, breaking down stereotypes, and upholding a commitment to respect and dignity for all youth. Topics and activities invite youth to explore gender roles, challenge norms that diminish, limit, or distort the dignity and value of every person, and build on individual and group strengths to promote resiliency.

Always provide choices to, and avoid imposing the program upon, gender non-conforming or questioning youth who may not identify with a particular gender-specific group. These youth may benefit from the supportive environment, not only to explore their identities without fear of judgment or exclusion, but also to find acceptance amongst peers.

LGBTQ youth also benefit from support groups specific to sexual orientation and identity experiences. Read more on our commitment to promoting safety for LGBTQ youth.

How many youth should I have in my Circle or Council and what should the age range be?
Eight seems to be a magic number for participants. Somewhere between six and ten is common. With large groups, it is very helpful to co-facilitate groups. Small groups of about five members may be more useful for youth who have special needs or have been through some extra hardships or trauma. These youth often feel safer in smaller groups. Try to keep youth within a one or two year age difference, or close in their developmental stages. While there are some groups in which youth range in ages of up to four years difference, generally older youth have a longer attention span for listening, younger youth are interested in a good balance of activity and sharing. Youth want and need to relate to one another, so it is best to try to match them up developmentally where possible.

What’s the best way for me to create safety, trust, and cohesion in my circle?
If you have ever participated in a group of any kind yourself, you know that these important characteristics take time to develop. They also take skill and dedication on the facilitator’s part, and the involvement of the group. From the very first day and hour of a Girls Circle or Council for Boys and Young Men, youth are invited to state the kinds of agreements and behaviors they need and want from each other in order to feel emotionally safe. Strategies are developed within the group to support the positive climate that engenders trust and cohesion. The facilitator then acts consistently to encourage the positive interactions and to discourage behaviors that interfere with safety and trust. Fortunately, youth really want the safety, and when they are able to participate in setting the limits and defining the goals of the group, they are willing to bring their best relationship abilities to the circle. The youth end up helping each other to show the kind of respect they want to be shown themselves.

How can I find a Girls Circle or Council in my area?
Because as an organization we do not work directly with youth, this can be a challenging question to answer. If you contact us, we will do our best to connnect you with individuals in your area who have recently attended a training or purchased curricula. We do have a wonderfully active Facebook Community- this is a great resource for asking questions about groups in your area. Additionally, parents and youth can contact local organizations serving youth to inquire about Circles or Councils. When some parents and community members have not found Girls Circles or Councils offered in their area, they have provided our information to local organizations or school counselors and offered assistance and encouragement to initiate groups. It is amazing to see the numerous, creative ways people make a difference!

Should everything that’s said in the group be kept confidential?
Girls Circles and Council for Boys and Young Men are places to share experiences, at a youth's own pace, in a confidential setting. This confidentiality creates emotional safety and trust. They learn to appreciate the group guideline that “everything said in circle stays in circle.” There are exceptions to confidentiality. Facilitators must contact parents or other responsible adults and community professionals when they believe a youth may be suicidal, or is threatening to seriously harm another person. Facilitators are mandated reporters and are legally and ethically bound to report to appropriate child protective services when they suspect a youth is or has been abused - physically, sexually, or emotionally. The safety of youth from harm is the number one responsibility for facilitators.

Should I charge for participation in the Circle or Council?
That is certainly an option, and a decision for you to make. Girls Circles and Councils are very rewarding experiences for facilitators, but many cannot afford to invest the time and energy without receiving fees for their service. Some adults who want to independently start groups in their communities do charge anywhere from $10 to $50 per session depending on the economics of their community and what parents can reasonably afford. Others are able or interested to facilitate circles and councils on a voluntary basis.

Schools, youth programs, and prevention and treatment settings always involve costs for the time, training, curricula, space, and support of the providers. These settings generally seek funds from local, state, federal grants and foundations that support youths' growth and development. Private practitioners such as therapists and other counselors charge reasonable fees in order to cover their time and expenses. It is our hope and vision that every youth who wants to participate in a circle or council can access one. We hope that barriers can be avoided wherever possible. Sliding scale or scholarships are often essential components of a strong and healthy program.

What about parents? How can parents be involved and support their children's experience?
Supporting a child's or teen's experience in a circle or council program is an important role.

  • Attend an orientation if offered, and read all literature provided.
  • Learn the purpose and what is expected of the members - time, place, attendance, and participation. Understand that attendance is very important to the overall experience for all circle members; the cohesion in the group increases the positive impacts for all the members.
  • Find out what the general topics are, and invite your daughters or sons to talk with you about those issues whenever they wish to do so.
  • Support the circle or council by letting your child or teen know that it's a good place for them to be themselves and enjoy activities with other peers.
  • Communicate with the facilitator(s) about concerns that arise for your child. Communications within the groups are generally confidential except when a child is in danger or being harmed; however, a parent can always contact the facilitator to share important information that can assist the facilitator in responding positively to specific situations or needs.
  • Some programs are able to offer separate parent circles to promote awareness, discussion and ways in which parents can maintain positive relationships with their sons and daughters throughout adolescence.
  • For parents of girls: Pay attention to your own behaviors and attitudes toward women and toward yourself. Girls Circle challenges many stereotypical notions. For example, Girls Circle believes that women and girls have strengths to come together to work things out and support one another, rather than letting jealousy, envy, and conflicts dictate relationships. Girls Circle believes that women and girls can be more effective in all their relationships when they can express their thoughts and feelings safely, directly and respectfully. Parents who model this behavior and support their daughters’ growing skills have a great influence on the positive direction of circles.
  • For parents of boys: pay attention to the messages you communicate about what it means to be a man. Boys are bombarded with messages to "act cool" and "be tough". They can be angry but not scared. These are socialized messages that cause boys to feel shame and worthlessness when they experience "unaccepted" emotions, which they learn to shut out, shut down, or overcompensate with aggression. Question media messages and stereotypes that limit boys' full human development and put them at risk of increased harm.
  • Share snacks or meals with the groups; food is always a very welcome added dimension to the council or circle experience!

Mother-Daughter Circle is a specific circle model that brings girls and their female caregivers together in circle. This is a very direct experiential way for mothers and daughters to gain support and skills while increasing their bonds.

How do you protect youth from potential abuse?
We recommend that every organization, school, or community setting that provides Councils or Circles follow standard safeguard practices to protect all children and youth from any type of abuse or crime. Protective measures are essential steps to any solid program’s successful implementation.

Agencies should require all adults, staff and volunteer, who work with children and teens to obtain fingerprint clearances, to receive child abuse prevention and response training, including how to recognize signs of possible abuse, responsibilities as mandated reporters, and procedures to report suspicion of child abuse.

In every setting, we recommend that children and youth are never alone and isolated with one adult. Ideally, two adults or young adults co-facilitate the groups, or, when there is not capacity for two facilitators, at least one other responsible adult is on site and available before, during, and after each session. In addition, the on-site adult should have permission to come and go freely, albeit respectfully, from the group room.

If your setting’s policy is unknown to you, or inadequate, contact your state’s child welfare department to request recommended guidelines for staff and volunteers. Children's and teen's rights and safety policies should be posted, spoken, distributed, and reviewed with children, parents, and all staff on site. Administrator contact information should be given to all participants and families to report any concerns or problems.

Can I attend a Girls Circle training if I plan on facilitating a Council for boys and vice versa?
While some of the foundational approaches of Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men are similar (e.g. the strengths-based approach, motivational interviewing strategies, developing trust and safety in the circles, etc.) each training uniquely focuses on the developmental needs that are specific to adolescent girls or boys. Additionally, each training spends the first part of Day 1 focusing on the theoretical framework specific to The Council and Girls Circle and these pieces are different, based on the needs of each gender. Finally, the circle format, circle experiences, and the practicum on Day 2 are completely different; each is uniquely designed to replicate the types of discussions/topics/activities that are relevant and important to each individual gender.

Therefore, we don't recommend that a participant substitute one training for the other as they will miss each of these important elements that are uniquely designed for each training.

   Girls Circle FAQs

What do girls want?
Girls want and need to be listened to by grown ups and peers and not be judged. They want to be supported and have adults believe in them. They want to know that even if they’ve messed up, they’re still good kids. They want to be in safe, healthy relationships that encourage, support, and empower them. They want to belong, to make a difference, to give voice to their thoughts, values, and beliefs, and to have a say in the decisions that affect them.

What do girls like most about Girls Circle?
Girls like the feeling of being supported by their peers, and offering support to others. They appreciate having the caring support of an adult facilitator who is willing to listen. They like the fun of participating in gender relevant activities in Girls Circle, and to participate in a community setting. Girls regularly report that Girls Circles help them realize that they are not alone, and that other girls have similar experiences and feelings. They also love the positive tone and respect that is experienced within the circle in addition to being treated as capable and confident to make their own wise and healthy decisions.

Should girls who are good friends be in the same Girls Circle?
Girls are often more willing to try a new experience if they can bring a friend or two. The key issue is that all girls who are willing to join a circle need to know that the circle’s purpose is for all participants to get more acquainted and be there for each other. Inclusiveness is an integral value of Girls Circles. Therefore, friends will be expected to stretch out of their comfort zones, to participate with others in icebreakers, activities, and sharing. Close friendships can leave other girls feeling excluded, so these relationships will be addressed early on, acknowledging girls’ friendships while expecting commitment to friendly and inclusive interactions with everyone. Some girls actually prefer to be in a Girls Circle where they don’t already have relationships. It feels like a fresh place to present oneself and be free from some of the emotional demands of other relationships.

Is Girls Circle a therapy group?
It sounds like one.

Girls Circle is a model for promoting girls’ wellness in groups. The model is applicable in community groups such as scouting, at camps, and in many prevention programs AND is also being applied in therapeutic settings.

Across all settings, Girls Circle maintains that girls have the basic right to safety and health. In fact, many girls need protection and safety from relational, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. This is a sad, but true reality.

While most Girls Circles spend the vast majority of time in sharing stories, and creating positive personal or team-oriented skills and solutions to gender-relevant issues, there are times when active adult intervention to protect girls from harm may occur.

Is it okay for a mother to facilitate a Circle with her daughter?
It depends on if your child wants to be with you in the group. It also depends on the nature and purpose of your Circle or Council. We have run circles as mothers, and run other circles professionally. Whatever role we are in, it is important to keep the role as a facilitator clear while we are in circle. A youth whose parent is the facilitator may feel awkward and uncomfortable; conversely, he or she may be very interested and comfortable in that environment. He or she may choose to speak freely, or select what he or she shares carefully.

Many youth and parents, however, find that these roles are tricky to balance. We’ve seen mother-daughter groups work very well when the circles begin while the daughter is in early adolescence. One or more parents as facilitators in this sort of group can be great. By high school, many youth need and value other adult role models, as they are learning to define themselves. So, again, it depends on your own child's comfort zone.

How should I publicize my Circle if I don’t work for a youth serving agency?
By far the best method is word of mouth in your community - your friends, school community, neighbors, faith or sports networks, and the youth themselves! Our Girls Circle Facilitator Manual provides you with a detailed unit on various ways to advertise and publicize your group. Having a team of motivated youth who help spread the word in fun and creative ways can be a great jump start to getting other youth interested to learn more. Many interested individual facilitators can team up with community organizations in existence, such as a neighborhood recreation center to offer the group. Places where youth naturally convene are great places where you can offer a Girls Circle.

Can Girls Circles have male facilitators?
Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men are designed to be gender-specific models. We know that positive male role models can be very important to girls’ growth and development, just as positive female role models can be important to boys' growth and development. However, girls and boys need places to talk about the pressures of growing up, including pressures and attitudes they experience from the opposite sex. Because many girls won’t talk honestly when boys and men are around about their personal concerns, they need female facilitators for circles. The same is true for boys’ groups that address male issues.

The Girls Circle model maintains the notion that girls’ wellness stems from strong connections in her community, and that a specific community of girls and women is a core component of her developing a positive identity as a young woman.

   The Council for Boys and
   Young Men FAQs

Why do boys and young men need The Council program?
Boys need a gender-specific group program to have a safe, protected, and focused place to address an array of harsh realities and to create healthy options for growing up male today. Findings of recent studies tell us that boys are not faring well in areas of education, mental health, health care access, bullying, violence, or substance abuse in this new millennia.

  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report on School Crime and Safety, 46% of males, and 26% of females reported they had been in physical fights.
  • Bullying was reported as more prevalent among males than females and occurred with greater frequency among middle school-aged youth than high school-aged youth. For males, both physical and verbal bullying was common, while for females, verbal bullying and rumors were more common. (Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001)
  • Bullying occurred most frequently in sixth through eighth grade, with little variation between urban, suburban, town, and rural areas; suburban youth were 2-3 percent less likely to bully others. Males were both more likely to bully others and more likely to be victims of bullying than were females. In addition, males were more likely to say they had been bullied physically (being hit, slapped, or pushed), while females more frequently said they were bullied verbally and psychologically (through sexual comments or rumors). April 24, 2001 (National Institutes of Health)

A 2005 Brief on Young Adult Males from the National Adolescent Health Information Centertells us:

  • Adolescent males are almost three times as likely as same age females to have ADHD, and more likely to have a learning disability.
  • Males are three to seven times more likely than females to be in juvenile justice residential placement.
  • Unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide rates are higher for males than females. American Indians/Alaskan Natives and Whites have the highest suicide rates, although these rates have fallen since a peak in the early 1990s.
  • Older teen males report higher levels of substance abuse, especially binge drinking, than their female peers. More than one in four young men ages 18 -25 report dependence or substance abuse.
  • Males ages 10 - 24 are over five times more likely to die of homicide than same-age females. Violence disproportionately affects the lives of young men, especially black young men.
  • Black males ages 10 - 24 have a homicide rate almost four times higher than the overall rate for all same age males, accounting for over half (56%) of all male homicides in this age group.
  • Over one-quarter of male students report carrying a weapon and one tenth report carrying a gun in the past 30 days.
  • With the exception of sexual assault and rape, males ages 12 - 24 have the highest victimization rates for violence, robbery and assault, compared to females of the same age range.
  • More males than females ages 10 - 24 report outpatient visits for mental health disorders.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases affect black youth — male and female — moreso than other ethnicities. Over 73% of older adolescent males (18 - 19 years) report having unprotected sex during the past year.
  • Lack of health insurance is a barrier to health and dental care for 12 - 14% of both male and female adolescents, and much higher rates for 18 - 25 year olds.

How do you motivate boys to join a strengths-based group program like The Council?
If boys are not accustomed to a council type and youth-oriented group, they might lack interest in initial invitations. Groups might sound boring if boys associate them primarily to sitting around talking. Youth typically experience groups as frustrating because they have to sit and listen to lots of talk, and many students are not accustomed to having their own opinions and interests taken seriously. Councils will change those experiences!

By far the most effective tool to increase boys’ interest is peer group word of mouth. If the word on the school yard is a good one about The Council, then the groups will likely fill easily. Initial strategies could include any of the following:

  • Invite a small group of peer leaders to a gathering to discuss boys’ interests, needs, and challenges in that setting. If this group meeting is successful, the boys are likely to want to return. Introduce and use The Council format as a structure for the meeting. Provide a meal or fun snacks and/or other incentives for their attendance and their ideas. Ask the boys how to get other boys interested, and create a plan together.
  • Present the group as a leadership opportunity. Utilize peer resource students or anti-bullying teams to make and send personal invitations to other students.
  • Have older boys, such as juniors and seniors, provide co-facilitation in teams with trained adult facilitators in groups for younger boys.
    Acknowledge with the boys that because they haven’t experienced The Council before, they may think it sounds weird or cheesie, but tell them its rooted in ancient traditions. Let them know that as boys are transitioning through adolescence, across cultures and throughout the ages, they have come together in council to discuss concerns and develop strategies,celebrate their masculinity, and harness their strengths.
  • Another important factor is boys’ knowledge of the facilitators. Building relationships with the boys in one-to–one or very small group conversations can make the difference in their decision to join up.

Incentives help:

  • Incorporate incentives such as a technology project or field trip of interest.
  • Provide community service credits or hours.
  • Offer food at every meeting.
  • Extend the invitation to students as an honor and special recognition of their peer relationship abilities or their respectful behaviors.
  • Try making a deal with them. For example: Meet in The Council for 5 weeks, earn a trip to the ball game. If you like it, we meet for another 5 weeks.

Alternatively, integrate The Council into an existing class or program, such as a health and sciences class, sports team, school play, chess club, environmental action team, or detention period.

For highly disconnected youth, find a way to pay them cash for their time. Make their time meaningful to them, and worth academic credits or community service. They need a strong reason to bother. Look for ways to provide transportation for boys who need it.

Can The Council have female facilitators?
Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men are designed to be gender-specific models. We know that positive male role models can be very important to girls’ growth and development, just as positive female role models can be important to boys' growth and development. However, girls and boys need places to talk about the pressures of growing up, including pressures and attitudes they experience from the opposite sex. Because many girls won’t talk honestly when boys and men are around about their personal concerns, they need female facilitators for circles. The same is true for boys’ groups that address male issues.

The Council for Boys and Young Men model emphasizes the need for positive male role models in boys' lives. Especially during teen years, boys benefit from male role models who can show care, attention, empathy, and strength in an emotionally safe setting. Nevertheless, the reality is that the vast majority of those who work with youth are women. When male facilitators are not available, we strongly recommend including another adult or young adult male as a positive role model who can participate with the female facilitator as a supportive co-facilitator or peer mentor where possible. When female facilitators are unable to include male role models, we encourage facilitators to state the obvious and to bring in the voices of adult males as much as possible through articles, stories, songs and literature.

Is The Council a Rites of Passage Program?
Yes. Adolescents across all cultures have a powerful need to develop an identity, have a purpose, and establish a respected role in their social communities. Coming of age taxes all systems- biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual. The Council's structure anchors boys within steady adult and youth relationships, provides social-emotional skill-building, and engages them in processes that help make meaning from chaotic and stressful life experiences. The program activities challenge boys to take healthy risks in the peer group, and to develop understanding about self and others. These activities help promote multi-dimensional growth inside and amongst boys who are journeying into manhood. When an eighth grade boy was recently asked to describe any change he may have noticed since participating in The Council, he wrote, “I’ve become a better person.”

How is The Council a Culturally-Competent Approach?
Some of the best programs we've heard running are serving diverse youth in urban settings, but also serving marginalized youth, rural youth, and boys at public and private schools as well. The structure of The Council and its strengths-based approach give boys many opportunities to explore, express, and celebrate identities.

An important quality of The Council is the flexibility within the model for facilitators to bring cultural principles, practices, role models, stories, self-expression practices, music, or traditional foods into the program. The Council has many elements of traditional practices for boys and young men across cultures and regions over time. Meeting in a council format, coming together with other males, using a talking piece and showing respect for different viewpoints and experiences, using humor and playfulness, fun, and challenges - these and other practices allow facilitators to meet boys where they are at and offer acceptance, while further developing their capacities for self-reflection,  resiliency, and positive social interaction. In a study about The Council, a boy told a researcher: “What I learned was we could all come together even though we don’t really like each other, we can learn about each other and all come back intogether and be friends, it helped.”

Why the name "Council" instead of "Circle" for boys?
We surveyed groups of adolescent boys about different names for this model. They responded with a clear preference for the word "Council", and we went with that preference.

  • In both Girls Circle and in The Council we use the "Council Format" during an important Check In step each session, a practice traditionally utilized by indigenous groups to express themselves, listen to one another and relate in a social group.
  • In both models, the participants sit in circle together, and hold activities often in or around the circle.

Both words are sacred and central to the purpose of both models, and often used interchangeably. Having said that, we recognize and respect the view and concern that using "The Council" could connote decision-making, while "circle" does not, and thus we could be reinforcing the unhealthy masculinity belief that decision-making is a role for men and boys, not women and girls. Respectfully, we understand that view point and certainly intend to challenge any such detrimental beliefs. Our experience has shown that boys who participate in The Council broaden their definitions about gender roles for males and females and are supported or learn to step back from the need to take control over others, and instead to give respect to other voices different from their own.



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