Happy New Year! Below is a brief roundup of the Wellbeing Economy Ireland Hub‘s activities over the past few months. 

We have a lot planned for 2023, so please keep an eye out for our updates in the course of the year. You’ll be hearing from us again soon!

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  • Cultural Creatives: Transformation Catalysts for a Wellbeing Economy

    We’re delighted to be collaborating with the Carnegie UK Trust on this exciting new project.  The aim is to expose ways in which a dominant economic narrative captures our popular imagination, and to mobilize creative, affirming cultural practices that present alternative world views.

    We will build a community of practice to support storytellers, singers, film-makers, visual artists and writers in contributing to this process of imagining the island’s diverse landscape of language, communities and alternative socio-ecological narratives. This new community of practice will bring together researchers, creative practitioners and activists. We’ll be sending around more information about this work in the coming months. 

  • Social Justice Ireland held its Annual Social Policy Conference, ‘Towards Wellbeing for All’ on Wednesday, 16th November 2022



    The Conference posed the question “What does Wellbeing look like and what needs to be considered for society, for the planet and for communities to thrive and what policies are needed to get us there?”

    Speakers at the event included Raili Lahnalampi (Finnish Ambassador to Ireland); Larry O’Connell and Anne-Marie McGauran (NESC); Carrie Exton (OECD); Sabina Alkire (OPHI); Gabriel Makhlouf (Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland); Clodagh Harris (UCC); Peter Doran (Queens University Belfast/WEAll Ireland Hub); Helen Howes (Wicklow Public Participation Networks); and Colette Bennett (Social Justice Ireland/WEAll Ireland Hub).

    Conference proceedings, videos, and slides are available on the Social Justice Ireland website at Towards Wellbeing For All – Conference Videos and Papers | Social Justice Ireland . They include Colette and Peter’s papers and presentations. 

  • Feasta’s Caroline Whyte gave the keynote address, ‘From Growth Trap to Dynamic Balance: Achieving a Wellbeing Economy’, at the Development Studies Association of Ireland conference in Limerick on November 17th. The theme of the conference was ‘Critical Perspectives in Sustainable Development’, and its goal was to rigorously interrogate the concept of sustainable development, examining its viability and adaptability to the emerging 21st century climate and habitat crises, and exploring some possible ways forward. You can access the slides from Caroline’s talk here.

  • Feasta, in its role as an Environmental Pillar member, made a series of recommendations to the Department of the Taoiseach on the Irish Government’s new Wellbeing Framework, as part of the Pillar’s submission on the National Economic Dialogue. We subsequently attended an online meeting with the DOT officials who are working on the Framework. Our recommendations include making the Framework’s development process more inclusive, ensuring that all of its indicators match the ‘wellbeing economy’ criteria, and clarifying its use in policymaking. We’re also advocating for a move towards post-growth and wellbeing economics in Irish policy in our role as an Environmental Pillar representative at the National Economic and Social Council.

  • Democratic, Inclusive and Creative Neighbourhoods: WEAll Ireland Hub event and live podcast on Oct 11 2022



    This dynamic session explored how we apply neighbourhood-based, participatory and incisive processes to community-led housing, and other cooperative initiatives. The day-long session took place in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, with Joseph Rathinam, a south Indian community activist. With inputs from Sinead Cullen, Peadar Kirby, Nathaniel Whitestone, SOA, Common Knowledge & WEAll IRELAND. It was hosted and facilitated by Davie Philip (Cultivate/WEAll Ireland Hub) and Chris Chapman.

  • The Derry Playhouse has been bringing activists and groups active in Zero Waste and Climate Action in the Derry-Londonderry area to build collaborative working and grow capacities as part of our Artitude project exploring climate, culture and the circular economy.



    We have also joined a pilot Community Wealth Building Hub with a range of organisations across different sectors. Led by Development Trust NI, we are working on a range of initiatives that are seeking to establish a community wealth building approach in the area and across Northern Ireland. Further details here

A commentary by WEAll Ireland Hub member Peter Doran on “The Mindful Commons”

The writer, Philip Pullman (2008) has observed that environmentalists –  essentially – tell a story about ‘us’ and ‘themselves’ and about our place in the universe (e.g. Thomas Berry: the new cosmic story) In this sense, environmentalism has something in common with the function of religion. Questions are posed: why are we heres? What is here? And What does it consist of? Above all, perhaps, we are confronted by the question: ‘What does it mean for us to be conscious of what we are doing to the world?’

In this age of the Anthropocene we have – individually and collectively – arrived at a threshold of consciousness. The quality and trajectory of our consciousness is no longer incidental (perhaps it never was) to the fate of the planet and the associated ecosystems, including the relative stability of the atmosphere.

At the core of this mindful and more conscious living must be the extension of an ethos of ‘non violence’ and a gentle self regulation wherein life is lived in the key of a new song: biorhythms…not algorithms.

Petra Kelly, one of the foremost influences on my early thinking, put it like this:

In a world struggling in violence and dishonesty, the further development of non-violence not only as a philosophy but as a way of life, as a force on the streets, in the market squares, outside the missile bases, inside the chemical plants and inside the war industry becomes one of the most urgent priorities. … The suffering people of this world must come together to take control of their lives, to wrest political power from their present masters pushing them towards destruction. The Earth has been mistreated and only by restoring a balance, only by living with the Earth, only by emphasizing knowledge and expertise towards soft energies and soft technology for people and for life, can we overcome the patriarchal ego (Chatto and Windus).

Equally, the quality of the stories and connections will be paramount. After twenty years of global and regional ‘action’ to pursue the sustainable development agenda set out at the first Rio ‘Earth Summit’ (1992) the United Nations Environment Programme (2012) has concluded that efforts to slow the rate or extent of changes to the Earth System have resulted in only moderate successes but have ‘not succeeded in reversing environmental changes’. Moreover, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded. Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.

The questions posed by the ecological crises are, above all, a series of provocations. That’s why writers have detected that the scale and nature of this crisis – or crises – invites us to revisit our most basic assumptions. Zizek (1995:34) caught the mood with his suggestion that the radical character of the ecological crisis is due not only to the effective danger. What is at stake is our most unquestionable presuppositions:

the very horizon of our meaning, our everyday understanding of “nature” as a regular, rhythmic process (Zizek 1995:34)

Echoing Wittgenstein, Zizek concludes that the ecological crisis bites into our ‘objective certainty’, into the domain of self-evident certitudes about which, within our established ‘form of life’, it is simply meaningless to have doubts.

The truth – of course – is that we have no choice but to live with new and far reaching questions about the implications of crises such as climate change. As Zizek and others have hinted…we are at a point of transition – ‘between stories’ – and as ‘communities of fate’ in a risk laden world, facing uncomfortable, unsettling questions is what we must now do both personally and collectively. Among the most interesting questions are those that confront the ‘social logic’ of capitalism and consumerism – for this is where we live out our lives, both real and imagined. And here, we meet one of the most intriguing questions of all (after Zizek): why is that we can imagine the end of the world much more easily than the end of capitalism?

A networking and peer-sharing opportunity for community catalysts and practitioners of creative place making. This dynamic session explored how we apply neighbourhood-based, participatory and incisive processes to community-led housing, and other cooperative initiatives. 


The day-long session took place in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, with Joseph Rathinam, a south Indian community activist. With inputs from Sinead Cullen, Peadar Kirby, Nathaniel Whitestone, SOA, Common Knowledge & WEAll IRELAND. It was hosted and facilitated by Davie Philip & Chris Chapman


In-Person Active Workshop  – 11.00 – 17.00 – Tuesday October 11th 2022 WeCreate Workspace, Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Tipperary. 


Tune in to the Live Podcast – 16.00 – 17.00 Participants share their ideas in this online session live from WeCreate.



Presented by Cloughjordan Co-Housing and SONEC (Sociocratic Neighbourhood Circles), Cultivate, FEASTA, Workhouse Union, SOA and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance of Ireland. Part of the Creatively Building Back Better Project supported by the Irish Environmental Network. 


Joseph Rathinam, a south Indian community activist, the lead trainer for the Neighbourhood Parliaments movement and an advocate and practitioner of ‘Neighborocracy’
Rosie Lynch, Creative Director of Workhouse Union and has been vital in developing the Nimble Spaces/Inclusive Neighbourhood programme.
Sinead Cullen, an architect, visual artist and Movement Medicine teacher working with individuals and organisations to imagine and build healthier ways of living.
Nathaniel Whitestone, is a certified Sociocracy expert with twenty five years experience in ethical business and sustainable community organising in North America and Europe. 
Peadar Kirby, an academic, author and active resident of Cloughjordan Ecovillage who has published widely on Ireland’s model of development, the political economy, globalisation, vulnerability/resilience, and on the low-carbon transition.
The proceedings will be co-facilitated by 
Davie Philip, a community catalyst and facilitator at Cultivate, the Sustainable Ireland Cooperative who has spent the last 25 years actively promoting and catalysing sustainable communities in Ireland. 
Chris Chapman, a highly experienced and competent convenor and host of conversations that matter with a background in community development and an interest in the powers of particular places to support transformative work.

Partners 
Cloughjordan CoHousing.Coop is progressing an affordable, diverse and cooperative neighbourhood model of low-carbon development, with an emphasis on sustainability and community, proposed to be located on sites within the Ecovillage in Cloughjordan. Cloughjordan CoHousing has co-hosted several events entitled ‘Housing Ourselves’, bringing together community-led housing activists, researchers and design professionals. https://cloughjordancohousing.coop
SONEC(Sociocratic Neighbourhood Circles) is an Erasmus+ project – funded by the EU’s “KA2 – Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices / KA204 – Strategic Partnerships for adult education” program – that addresses serious social and environmental issues by applying neighbourhood-based, bottom-up, participatory and inclusive decision making processes.https://sonec.org
Workhouse Union supports the development of inclusive, meaningful, positive places and communities. Their unique approach is rooted in care and collaboration. Using creativity, they bring people together around often complex issues, needs and challenges, helping facilitate a meaningful transformation of towns, neighbourhoods and shared spaces.https://workhouseunion.com
Cultivate – The Sustainable Ireland Cooperative Established in 2000 the Sustainable Ireland Cooperative trading as Cultivate is national NGO focused on education and civic engagement. The co-op has progressed sustainability and community resilience through courses, events and publications. For ten years Cultivate managed a sustainable living and learning centre in Dublin city before relocating in 2011 to Cloughjordan, County Tipperary and currently manage the WeCreate Community Enterprise Centre in Cloughjordan Ecovillage. http://www.cultivate.ie
FEASTA Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, aims to identify the characteristics (economic, cultural and environmental) of a truly sustainable society, articulate how the necessary transition can be effected and promote the implementation of the measures required for this purpose.https://www.feasta.org
SOA SOA is a not-for-profit action research think tank, formed in 2017 to research and promote cooperative and collaborative approaches to housing in Ireland. We study proven and successful UK, European and North American strategies and look at how these might be adapted to Ireland.https://soa.ie
WEAll Ireland – ~Wellbeing Economy Alliance The WEAll Ireland hub is a collaboration of organisations and individuals across the island of Ireland working towards a wellbeing economy, delivering human and ecological wellbeing. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance is a global network building momentum for economic transformation and changing the debate so that economies around the world deliver shared wellbeing for people and planet. https://weall.org/ireland

WEAll Campfire

Comhrá cois teallaigh

‘What is the role of the artist in catalysing a wellbeing economy on the island of Ireland?’


Friday 25th March 2022 – 19.30 – 21.00

A Blended – Online and Physical Event

Via Zoom and at: An Gairdín Beo, Old Dublin Rd. Carlow

This event follows on from the Irish WEAll Hub launch event in October 2021, ‘Breakdown or Breakthrough?: Catalysing the Wellbeing Economy’ with Katherine Trebeck, Jen Wallace and Kate Raworth.

This session focussed on a Social Imaginary project which the Ireland Hub’s core members have been discussing. The project is a co-production process – a community of practice of artists, activists and researchers exploring how we might imagine the wellbeing economy. 

Why focus on artists for this event?

In the words of Sandra Waddock, 

‘Often labelled visionaries, artists can serve as ‘seers’ of reality as it is, of what is that others do not see, and of what might be. They thus help frame and envision new cultural mythologies and social imaginaries. Artwork is more than beauty or decoration, it has the power to wake people up and create meaningful change. Art can be a compass towards the future we want to live in.’

We asked each contributor the question: 

What is the role of the artist in catalysing a wellbeing economy on the island of Ireland? 

Contributors 

Matt Baker 

Matt Baker is a Scottish public artist who has focused on long-term activist strategies for integrating creative practice into the social, economic and political structures of his home region in South West Scotland. He founded, and is based with, The Stove Network in the heart of Dumfries town centre, which is is the only Community Development Trust run by artists in Britain.

Rosie Lynch 

Rosie is the Creative Director of the Workhouse Union in Callan, County Kilkenny, which works with artists, designers, architects and crafts-people to develop projects examining housing, civic infrastructure and the commons, engaging people with the spaces and places we live. Her activities include work on Nimble Spaces, an innovative housing project developing long term collaborations between artists, architects and adults with a disability, considering ‘home’ and shared living. 

Thomas McShane

Thomas McShane is a native of North Carolina, with family links to Leitrim. He is a professional viola player and currently plays in ensembles throughout Ireland, including the National Symphony, Luminosa Music Galway, and the Ulster Orchestra. He is also a fluent Irish speaker and is completing a graduate diploma in Applied Irish at the University of Limerick.

Kevin Murphy

Kevin is the CEO of the Playhouse Derry, a local community theatre which uses the arts to promote healing, understanding, reconciliation and transformation between people and communities in or emerging from conflict. He is also a voluntary director of Wall2Wall Music which is involved in a range of community music, music education and cross-artform initiatives that seek to engage people in exploring their own creativity.

Sandra Waddock 

Sandra Waddock is an academic, holding the Galligan Chair of Strategy at Boston College, and an author whose latest book is Transforming towards Life-Centered Economics: How Business, Government, and Civil Society Can Build a Better World . She has carried out extensive research on transformational catalysts and on the special role of artists in creating social imaginaries.

Mel White

Mel White is a multi award winning spoken word artist, a resident of Cloughjordan Ecovillage and an active member of Extinction Rebellion Ireland (XRI). Her dynamic poetry comments on a variety of social and environmental issues, amid a backdrop of vivid imagery and personal stories. Mel is a regular performer at events all around Ireland, as well as numerous protests, community and educational events, literary gatherings, and Cloughjordan’s SpeakEATsy, which she co-hosts.

If you’d like to sign up to our mailing list in order to be kept informed of the WEAll Hub for Ireland’s activities, please go here

This event drew an online audience of over 120.

For a few minutes prior to the official start of proceedings we were serenaded by the gentle guitar music of Paddy Flamenco (Paddy Anderson). Then our genial compere Davie Philip ( a member of  Hub steering group) introduced proceedings with a poem from fellow Cloughjordan resident, poet Mel White.

Mel’s inspiring poem was followed by a presentation from Seán Ó Conláin, also a member of the Hub steering group, on the work done to arrive at this point. He invited everyone to join the journey to create an effective alliance in Ireland on this crucial notion  of a different kind of economy. He referred to the work of NESC and the government response, namely, to create a set of national indicators, but suggested that what we need is  a transformative action programme, which we can co-create. 

Our first guest, Katherine Trebeck, Strategic Advocacy Advisor for WEAll, commented that she was pleased to see so many friends from across the globe who will able to support the new Hub. While patch and repair might be offered as a solution, as an economist she argues that we need a new model of the economy – but what should it look like? The ethos of WEAll is all around collaboration, and support for those who are doing pioneering work. Hubs represent conversations at a local level which can lead to a global vision.

Katherine was followed by Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at Carnegie UK, who presented their concept of how we can contribute to collective wellbeing and the work that Carnegie has carried out on the wellbeing economy in Northern Ireland, particularly on a community level. (Jennifer’s PowerPoints are here).

Then there were two brief reflections, both from other members of the hub steering group: first, Peter Doran of Queens University Belfast. He made reference to Michael D as a role model for solidarity within Ireland and Europe. He reminds us of the notion of reconciling the economy with global climate justice and the principle of listening to local conversations.

Colette Bennett of Social Justice Ireland commented that we should listen to Katherine Trebeck’s comment that we must continue to ask questions, behaving like 3-year-old children. This underpins the idea of a deliberative democracy; and understanding what community wellbeing really means. But we must avoid ‘wellbeing washing’. The key for her, was creating a transformation task-force.

We then had a second emotive and profound poem from Mel White.

Next Roisin Markham of the Irish Doughnut Economy Network (IDEN) introduced our special guest speaker, Kate Raworth. She gave an inspiring talk, based on this slide deck. Kate related the Doughnut concept to the current situation in Ireland. She asked four questions: how can the people of Ireland thrive? How can Ireland be as generous as the wildlife next door? How can Ireland respect the health of the whole planet? How can Ireland respect the wellbeing of all people? She identified elements of  the deep design of places and gave examples of city Doughnut workshops across Europe. Finally, she suggested the Doughnut Economics Action Lab as a resource that we might turn to.

Davie Philip sought two quick  reflections on Kate’s presentation. Firstly,  Caroline Whyte of FEASTA (another member of the Hub steering group) spoke about the need for Ireland to reflect on its relationship with other countries, taking as an example the prominent role of Ireland’s current Minister of Finance in the Eurogroup. She also stressed the importance of ‘upstream’ measures such as hard limits on fossil fuel production and the introduction of commons-based taxation such as land value tax, so as to help reorient the entire economy. 

Charlie Fisher of the Development Trust of Northern Ireland reiterated the point that earlier speakers had made about Ireland’s effect on the global economy, and emphasised the important role of land ownership and property assets, calling for a community rights act in Northern Ireland and a strengthening of democracy so as to deter abusive extractive industries.

Several comments followed from audience participants, referring among other subjects to Community Wealth Building, EU-level work and the need to emphasise peace and reconciliation.

Davie invited Mark Garavan of FEASTA and  the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology to provide closing remarks. Mark said, in summary:

‘ A recurring idea in all of the contributions was the posing of the question ‘how’, not why, we must move to a new ‘well-being’-centred system? We start with questions, not answers. Therefore, a key barrier to the transition that we need is imagination, as Katherine said. While we need limits to growth we need no limits to thought.

Kate’s doughnut is a visual representation of new modes of representing our social and ecological breakdown points. 

Part of the conception we need is not to limit ‘well-being’ to the human but to also include the well-being of all life – tree, river, mountain, habitat. The well-being we seek is the well-being of all.’

Davie thanked all the speakers, promised to harvest the chat from the recording and link attendees to our mailing list. On offer in Spring 2022 will be a further dialogue with Tim Jackson, ecological economist and author of books such as ‘Post Growth, life after capitalism’.

The session ended with a contribution from Irish bard, John Spillane.

This interactive event was the formal launch of the WEAll Ireland Hub – a follow-up to our successful online gathering in June. We heard from leading global visionaries Kate Raworth of Doughnut Economics and Katherine Trebeck of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. They joined with Jennifer Wallace of the Carnegie UK Trust, core members of the new WEAll Hub for Ireland, the Irish Doughnut Economics Network and other local Irish activists to help identify the strategic actions that are needed to shift values and reorient our economies toward wellbeing policies and practices, to create an island of wellbeing.

Date: Tuesday October 19

Time: 12:30-2pm Irish time

Read the event report and watch the video

Written by Caroline Whyte, WEAll Ireland Hub

High levels of enthusiasm and readiness for change were expressed in the course of this participatory event, with emphasis placed on a need for fundamental economic transformation to bring about greater community empowerment and increase overall societal wellbeing. 

The participants – 45-50 – came from many backgrounds with a wide range and depth of experience, from all over Ireland and a few from beyond. They joined us to explore the principles of a wellbeing economy, identify the range and depth of existing activities on the island and establish how we might catalyse change together. 

At the event we considered these questions:

How might we work together to change the economic system and create a wellbeing economy?

How can the Wellbeing Economy Alliance add value to the existing work we are all doing?

Event Outline

Co-hosts Davie Philip of Cultivate, Caroline Whyte of Feasta, Seán Ó Conláin of Feasta and EHFF, Colette Bennett of Social Justice Ireland, David Somekh of EHFF and Peter Doran of QUB School of Law welcomed the participants and provided some background context on WEAll and the situation of Ireland. Participants verbally introduced themselves in breakout room pairs, and to the plenary via the meeting’s chat. 

Following feedback from the breakouts, a final plenary took place.

We were delighted to have some live music from Belfast-based flamenco guitarist Paddy Anderson at the beginning of the event, and from songwriter Conor Lawlor at the end.

Here’s some of what emerged from the groups and the discussions:

Q1. What has already been done [on wellbeing in Ireland] and Q.2. What is being worked on?

Public Participation Networks (PPNs)

Many PPNs, including Clare, Cork, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wicklow, have created bottom-up wellbeing vision statements to be used by the local authority, with powerful local engagement.  There is an opportunity to build on this interest in wellbeing arising from this work.

Local development

Collaboration for Change has initiated an online mapping project of local groups throughout Ireland. 42 local/community development organisations currently cover the Republic at local level; their focus includes marginalised groups and contributing to a climate of care. Community Wealth Building (CWB) is being actively promoted by civil society in both jurisdictions, including the Development Trust Northern Ireland.

Doughnut concepts are being very actively explored in a local context, with support from the Irish Doughnut Economics network (IDEN). 

A holistic Gaeltacht initiative is working with people in Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) on a development plan for the community.

Business

The event included representatives from a large Northern-based community cooperative in the North owned by 250 people, a network of pop-up repair cafés, rural microenterprise, Community Supported Agriculture schemes, and startups in the blockchain space. Participants explained how their work is helping to generate sustainable diversity in local economies throughout Ireland. 

Government/EU

The Governments both North and South have committed to producing Wellbeing Outcomes. In the North, work on a wellbeing framework is well advanced, and includes the NI Wellbeing Roundtable. In the South, a wide-ranging report from NESC is helping to prepare the ground for the planned government programme based on the OECD wellbeing framework.  

At a local government level, Local Authorities in the North have a duty since 2015 to promote wellbeing; Carnegie UK Trust has been working to support this. Meanwhile, in the South, meetings have taken place with Cork City Council on the adoption of Doughnut Economic principles.

More broadly, work is also being carried out exploring financial system reform through organisations such as Positive Money; there is a constitutional campaign in the South on the ‘right to housing’ and the ‘right to food’; and a civil society campaign is focussing on improving diet and making food more sustainable. At EU level, Irish MEP Grace O Sullivan is working on a legislative initiative which is intended to steer the EU towards a wellbeing economy, with six key objectives. 

Qs 3 and 4. What would be the seeds for change – what might catalyse a wellbeing economy? AND How we might catalyse change together?

Vision and narrative: We need an appealing, positive counter-narrative to the dominant one on the economy. It should use clear language, have a localised, participatory focus, embrace commons development as an alternative to State or private ownership, use an ‘investment’ frame rather than a ‘cost’ one, build on lessons from COVID-19, and be free of GDP-growth dependency. It should avoid the use of binary, ‘us’ and ‘them’ language, focussing instead on breaking down silos at national and local government level and in the media. 

Governance and objectives: We need to encourage longer-term thinking by politicians, ensure that the younger generation is well-informed and involved in the decision-making process, embed principles such as those of Community Wealth Building into government approaches, advocate legislation to de-emphasise GDP-based metrics in favour of other measurements, challenge the dominant role played by consumerism and advertising, and advocate for much stronger government support of participatory community work.

Q5: How could a WEAll hub support your work? – Next Steps

Research and advocacy

By connecting the dots between the global, national, regional and local – i.e. developing a way to bring together top-down and bottom-up action on wellbeing throughout Ireland, while working to reverse the trend of commercialisation of community development. There is a need to distill ideas down while avoiding over-simplifying; this ties into the work on narrative change and communication mentioned above.

Communication and Network-building

• By organising regular meetings and conversations of people from across the spectrum, including for example members of the groups within the PPNs.

• By creating a dedicated online space where people can continue to have e-conversations. 

• By creating a dedicated website for people to easily find information on the WEAll Ireland Hub, with clear visuals on what wellbeing economy means, and concrete examples.

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We would like to thank all of the participants once again for their time and very valuable contributions.