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On the command line, navigate to the root of the distro project , the assumption is that you and run the commans below assumming you've already cloned the reference application distro project from git.
git checkout -b new_branch_name tag_name
Change the version in the pom files in all the sub projects to a snapshot version e.g if the latest release is 2.6 or 2.6.0 and the branch name is 2.6.x, then the new version in the pom files would be 2.6.1-SNAPSHOT and commit the changes.
Then push the new branch out to to origin and upstream.