Pop-up public value. Public governance in the context of civic self-organisation. Martijn van der Steen. Mark van Twist.

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1 Pop-up public value Public governance in the context of civic self-organisation Martijn van der Steen Mark van Twist Nancy Chin-A-Fat Tobias Kwakkelstein Netherlands School of Public Administration Pop-up public value 1

2 About the authors Dr Martijn van der Steen is deputy dean and deputy director of the Netherlands School of Public Administration and director of its think tank. Prof. dr Mark van Twist is professor of Public Administration at Erasmus University and is executive dean at the Netherlands School of Public Administration. Nancy Chin-A-Fat MSc is researcher and lecturer at the Netherlands School of Public Administration. Tobias Kwakkelstein MA is strategy and research advisor at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. 2

3 Pop-up public value Public governance in the context of civic self-organisation Dr Martijn van der Steen Prof. Dr Mark van Twist Nancy Chin-A-Fat MSc Tobias Kwakkelstein MA This essay was written partly as part of the multi-annual Knowledge Programme on Intelligent Administration for a Resilient Society, in participation by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, together with the Netherlands School of Public Administration (nsob) and the Utrecht University School of Governance (usg) isbn Netherlands School of Public Administration

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5 Table of contents 1. Emerging networks: public value bottom-up 5 2. Changing relationships: Top-down and bottom-up 9 3. Successive concepts of governance: towards a mixed model Mindful optimism: taking into account pragmatic or principled criticism Conclusion: A layered view of a mixed governance practice 34 Endnotes 40 References 49 Pop-up public value 3

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7 1 Emerging networks: public value bottom-up When the library closes down The City of Rotterdam in The Netherlands is closing down fourteen of its nineteen local libraries. These local libraries are replaced by five much larger central libraries serving people from the surrounding neighbourhoods. The plan will not only raise the quality of the big, new central libraries but can also save a considerable amount of money. Despite the good intentions and the need for cost-cutting measures at Rotterdam s libraries, there are a number of concerns with this proposal. The whole point of local libraries is that users can drop in to read and borrow books, and meet other people from their neighbourhood. The library was a public place, a node for the local network. Having the library close by lowered the barrier to entering, a significant consideration in neighbourhoods where reading a book to your kids is by no means self-evident. Moreover, elderly people who wish to use the library are hardly likely to travel four stops on the metro to get there. When the library closes down, the community loses an important asset. The disappearance of their local library prompted a group of residents to take action to do something about it. In a vacant shop owned by a housing association and situated on a main road through the neighbourhood they opened the Rotterdam-West Reading Room, with books donated by friends and local residents, using their network to organise and furnish the reading room. The Reading Room has been operating for a while now and continues to develop and grow. There are meetings and afternoon reading sessions, but also literary presentations and live music. And there are books lots of them. Even though there is no system of fines, people are willing to bring the books back. They seem to have a feeling of ownership, even though the books and library don t belong to them. What first seemed to be a loss for the neighbourhood the demise of the community library has turned into something really positive. It s still rather fragile, but a start has been made. It s now up to local residents and the other people involved to take things further. The pop-up library as its founders refer to it is an example of the self-organisation of public value. It is a bottom-up organisation but that does not mean that the local authorities are entirely absent. The authorities also have a role to play when there is spontaneous organisation of public value or perhaps especially then. At the Rotterdam-West Reading Room, self-organisation and local enterprise dominate, and local authorities have been involved when they had to be not in the sense of funding or a policy programme but with informal referrals and by giving the green light when necessary. The pop-up library belongs to the neighbourhood and runs on the basis of the network of those involved. The authorities are involved and are part of that network no more and no less than that. Pop-up publieke waarde 5

8 Examples like the Reading Room in Rotterdam-West demonstrate what is currently going on in a wide range of places and fields. In the public arena, all kinds of initiatives can be found, originating from the bottom up from the network with public value being created by parties other than the public authorities, i.e. the municipality, central government, the province, the region, or other bodies of public policy. 1 This is sometimes in response to policy, but often at people s own initiative, with their individual reasons and intentions. The authorities sometimes receive a formal request, but more often they gradually become aware of a situation that is already far advanced. Public value is therefore increasingly created within a mixed field in which the authorities, the public, entrepreneurs, market parties, and civil-society organisations are at work in all kinds of non-comparable relationships. 2 The public domain is not emptying out but is increasingly being filled up, by a whole range of different and diverse parties; it is busier, and more varied than before. The network that was initially seen as the target or the locus of government policy has now itself become the driving force behind public value. The network is no more the recipient of policy, or the landscape within which policy operates, but is becoming a producer of public value. The network produces public value instead of receiving it. Public authorities are going along with these developments but how, and are they doing so quickly enough? The network has always been there and the idea of public value being produced by others than the authorities is not anything new. 3 This time, however, it seems to be different. If it is, what does that mean for the public authorities and the repertoire that we currently know and have grown accustomed to? What are the roles, modes, and forms of government that fit the new emerging balance between government, market and society? Beyond the market and government Discussion of the implementation of public tasks is a constant in political and public debate. The panels of the public and the private debate have been constantly shifting in recent decades. 4 During the rapid expansion of the welfare state in the 1950s and 1960s, civil-society groupings (charities, associations, cooperatives) and private performance (companies, patronage) of public tasks were collectivised. This process took place later in the Netherlands than in other European countries, but it ultimately did take place, and on a large scale. 5 Twenty years later, in the 1980s and 1990s, a counter-movement developed with a strong emphasis on liberalisation, amounting in many cases to the 6

9 privatisation of what had previously been collectivised. 6 Public agencies were transformed into private businesses, often operating in new government-created markets, for example in rail transport, healthcare, and telephone. Government became the client for private parties and/or the market manager, a position from which it steered the production of public value without producing it itself. 7 In the famous words of Osborne and Gaebler, 8 government would steer rather than row. Other parties would produce public value, but all of them would be subject to government responsibility, supervision, and accountable for the political primacy. Discussions on the production of public value are often about the relationship between the market and the state. 9 That discussion primarily concerns the extent to which market forces operate and whether the limits have been reached or indeed exceeded; the question of what government should in fact do and what can be left to the market. Over the years, there have been various developments in this area, for example, regarding the role to be played by citizens and clients of public services. 10 Are they the recipients and users of government services, or do they have a more active role to play, for example in generating ideas? Interaction with stakeholders has become an important issue in policy, but to a large extent from the perspective of increasing the power of government to deliver 12 the desired services. In recent years, the idea of the strength of a vital society and self-reliance has taken off. There is an increasing emphasis on the possibility of enabling citizens, civil-society groupings, and businesses to engage in initiatives themselves so as to produce public value. Even more important is that this is not merely being debated, but is already being done on a large scale without consent or formal requests on the part of the authorities. The energetic, enterprising, or resilient society does not need to be made by government it is there already. 13 At first, bottom-up initiatives were viewed as merely second-best. Some critics say, for example, that citizen initiatives are a last resort in fields where the authorities performance is substandard or absent. 14 Such critics do not value organisation from the bottom up as an autonomous development but see it as a desperate response by citizens when authorities refuse to act. By contrast, those who are optimistic about self-organisation see a great flowering of locally organised energy cooperatives that make it possible to achieve seemingly impossible sustainability objectives after all. Yet, others see this flowering as a direct result of budget costs by the authorities, and all that citizens can do is take the necessary action themselves. In the latter view, citizens Pop-up public value 7

10 do not take action because they want to but because they have no other alternative. 15 The initiative is consequently a sign of a shortcoming on the part of the authorities and not of intrinsic self-motivation on the part of actors within society; people act in their own interest based on their own decisions and their own values. Depending on one s opinion, there is a lot to be said for both views. What cannot be denied, however, is that initiatives are underway, that people have the necessary energy, and that the government has taken a step back. They are possible, they are permitted, and they are happening not everywhere but in every town or city and in every possible field. Self-organisation and do-it-yourself production of public value 16 a library, energy generation, a collective insurance policy, a beautiful town square, a clean street are now a reality more than ever. This also means a switch in the associated discourse, from previewing an emerging possibility to discussing what to actually do with what has already become a reality. The question is not Is that something for us? but How is it working here? ; not Would it be possible? but How will we make use of it?. For public authorities, the question is how to deal with self-organisation and with pop-up public value. How should public authorities act within a public domain that is literally filling up, without any clear direction, without a representative point of contact, and without a clearly defined plan or political agenda? In this essay, we will discuss the new steps in thinking about governance of, and the relationship between, the public authorities, the market, and society. Our approach will not be of normative consideration Is it desirable? but of reflection on the nature and consequences of pop-up public value as an empirical fact. How should these new facts be positioned within the broader development of the relationship between the public authorities, the market, and society, and in the governance models that the government applies? We will examine the successive phases that one can distinguish in the thinking regarding governance and the associated practices. We make clear that there is a certain sequence of views and practices regarding governance. The different views do not replace one another, but come to be located adjacent to and above one another, like sedimentary strata. 17 The existing practice of governance can be seen as a mixed model in which views of governance from different periods occur simultaneously as mixed forms. We attempt to understand the developments in concepts of governance, but also to help public authorities that are currently confronted with a variety of governance practices to take the next steps. 8

11 2 Changing relationships: Top-down and bottom-up Phenomena such as the self-reliant society, empowerment, citizen power, citizen involvement, do-it-yourself democracy, and social entrepreneurship can be interpreted as a shift in the relationship between government, the market, and society in general. 18 In all cases, public value is being produced in different production models, made up of different combinations of market, public authorities and the community. Public value can be many things; it just as much involves the quality of public spaces as it is about being able to borrow a book; the possibility of meeting people, helping the elderly with their shopping, but also the generation of energy and the provision of healthcare. Each of these can be produced in different modes, with market, government, and society involved in different roles and balanced differently. Figure 1 shows this variety in the production of public value and its conceptual interpretation. The arrows in the figure depict the initiative in the shift of the production mode. In some cases, production is pushed down in the triangle, for instance when government agencies attempt to cut their own costs and terminate their activities in a particular domain. Other cases, however, may show that practices come from the bottom up, with entrepreneurs or active citizens who enter the public sphere on their own initiative and often without approval from government. government citizen participation privatisation and liberalisation active citizenship social entrepreneurship society market Figure 1 Changing relationships between the authorities, the market, and the community. Pop-up public value 9

12 Top-down: Privatisation and citizen participation Privatisation and liberalisation mean the transfer of tasks from public authorities to the market. This can be on a large or small scale, but the principle is that a commercial party begins carrying out what used to be a task or service performed by the authorities. 19 There are many examples, although the Netherlands has been reticent about privatisation compared to a number of other countries. The crucial point about privatisation is that an existing task is transferred to a commercial party i.e. a business or that an existing public agency that carries out the task is converted into a business. In many cases, the authorities continue to be involved, for example as a shareholder or licence holder. Public governance and steering remain, for example in the criteria for the contract and through the programme of requirements. Commercial parties carry out the task but do not determine it. This means that there is also constant discussion of the limits of the contract. 20 Does the commercial party still do what it was intended to do, and are quality and service up to standard? Is the public interest still served properly? Politicians are under pressure to continue to direct matters and to take responsibility, even if that responsibility may no longer actually apply to their task or can only be exercised with extreme caution. One significant feature of privatisation is that it takes place at the initiative and as a political choice of the public authorities and that the decision can be reversed if they want to. In other words, it is not businesses or citizens but the authorities that are the driving force behind the shift. Whether the task or service is privatised is for politicians to decide. Although privatisation is not easy to reverse, practically speaking, the initiative and control remain with the authorities. Although the main waves of privatisation occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, there are still fields in which partial or full-scale privatisation is ongoing or is being considered. Citizen participation and self-reliance involve the transfer of tasks performed by the authorities to the community, either to organised groups or to individual citizens. 21 These then do what was previously done by the public authorities, at the initiative of the authorities which cease carrying out the task, phase it out, or otherwise cease their involvement and transfer it. In other words, one is dealing with tasks that are currently carried out by the authorities themselves, and for which they bear responsi- 10

13 bility, which are switched over to the community. One example frequently referred to is the work of looking after a city s public green areas. At the moment, the city maintains these areas itself, or contracts the work out to a company, whereas the residents of a neighbourhood or street could perfectly weed the park alongside which they live themselves. There have been numerous attempts to introduce what is referred to in policy terms as externalisation of implementation, in other words no longer undertaking certain self-selected tasks but shifting them lower down the triangle in Figure 1, transferring them to members of the public who then carry them out either individually or in organised groups. 22 What is crucial in such cases is the initiative and its embedding: it is the authorities that determine what is shifted lower down the triangle, what will be taken over by members of the public, and what conditions will apply. Often, it is not the complete task that is concerned but an activity that is embedded and that remains within a regime operated by the authorities. People take on some of the care themselves but they do so within the authorities framework, embedded in the regulations and activities of the authorities. 23 People do the work, but participate in the activity of the authority concerned. There is an analogy here with privatisation in the 1990s: the authorities (or national government) determine what happens, how, as part of what arrangement, and according to what process design. Privatisation and citizen participation essentially operate top-down. They are processes in which the authorities direct, deploy, design, and sticking with the image of the triangle push tasks downwards, for others to perform them. The market gets to work, but in response to a request from government. Businesses deploy activities, but under a licence issued by the authority. More or less the same applies in the case of citizen participation and self-reliance. The community plays a role, but it takes place on the basis of a government programme. Citizen participation and selfreliance do involve citizens being active, but constitute public policy rather than social development. Citizen participation and self-reliance in the sense of the upper part of the triangle are a top-down programme in which citizens are brought in to achieve the authorities objectives and programmes. In the latter case, citizens become the ultimate implementation organisation of the authorities, ensuring production of the public value desired and defined by the authorities. Pop-up public value 11

14 Movement Initiative and control Example: Green areas Privatisation The authori- The authorities initiate A public park is planted up and and liberali- ties transfer and control by means maintained by a contracted hor- sation tasks to the of licences and regula- ticultural company in accordance market. tions. with a sla. The contract is put out Privatisation is literally to tender again periodically, with a task transferred by the the authority reconsidering the authorities. conditions and requirements. Citizen parti- The autho- The authorities deter- The municipality sends a letter to cipation and rities push mine the tasks that people living near a park asking self-reliance tasks onto will be transferred to whether they are able to under- citizens, in the community and take management of the park consultation estimate who can take and invites them to a discussion with them. them on and at what of the matter. The municipality level. The authorities determines whether the residents remain responsible and will or will not be free to replant can take back tasks the park and what other restricti- if that is necessary or ons there will be. politically desirable. Table 1: Privatisation and citizen participation. From the bottom up: Active citizenship and social entrepreneurship There are numerous initiatives that develop from the bottom up; not at the request of a policymaker but because people themselves instigate them. This concerns activities that we refer to as active citizenship or social entrepreneurship. 24 Active citizenship and empowerment involve people taking the initiative to address something in their neighbourhood. 25 This may be actual physical work, for example laying out a shared neighbourhood garden or raking leaves in a public park. It can also be a social activity, such as afternoon readings in the street, doing the shopping for elderly people, or involving parents by setting up a parents meeting venue at the local primary school. The initiative comes from citizens, who enter the domain in which it is currently the public authorities that are active (or also active). They do this without being asked and on their own terms. In some cases, this is in addition to the activities of the authority concerned but it often involves pushing aside and competing with what that authority provides. Active 12

15 citizenship is by no means something new. Individuals perform countless tasks and work of public value every day, generally without realising that they are involved in active citizenship. They may do the shopping for a neighbour with a disability, look after family members, or visit lonely elderly people. In the context of traffic, people jointly construct a safe and accessible public space by making room for one another and by sticking to the rules. We can in fact find active citizenship wherever we look. What is new about such initiatives is that they are shifting into a domain where the authorities are already active. They involve a replacement for what the authorities do or they are in competition with them. Active citizens are elbowing their way, so to speak, into the domain that involves producing public value, and are doing so on their own terms and for their own reasons. 26 Active citizenship is consequently also linked, by definition, to individual interests. It operates in the public domain and has public value there, but it links up with what individuals consider worthwhile and important. The pop-up library in Rotterdam is an initiative that adds value to the neighbourhood concerned: people can again borrow books in a neighbourhood where the municipal library has disappeared. But the initiators also have broader goals in mind: they consider it important to enhance their neighbourhood and for new cohesion to be created, and they take pleasure in actually creating a tangible facility. They do this not only for charitable motives but also for their own benefit. Seen in this way, active citizenship also involves sometimes entirely understandable self-interest in addition to reasons involving other people and the community. Active citizenship is never a reflection or a weighing up of all the interests and values involved. In fact, it involves by definition considerations that are specific to the individual and that are selective. This is important because it is here that one finds a significant difference to the activities of the authorities in the public domain. Those activities are hardly ever wanted by everybody, but that is why choosing them takes place within transparent, verifiable, and legitimated political processes. There is also generally an extensive web of rules and appeal options that protect the interests of minorities and individuals. In the case of active citizenship, there are no such checks and balances, at least not formally, and is highly political but without the institutional checks and balances. Social entrepreneurship involves similar bottom-up initiatives but features entrepreneurship and has the aim of making a profit (perhaps only a modest one). 27 Social entrepreneurs construct their organisation on the basis of a revenue model. In some cases, the enterprise is set up with the Pop-up public value 13

16 intention of remaining on a small scale, while sometimes the ambitions are more expansive. The entrepreneur wants the enterprise to be more than the individual efforts of its founder. Social enterprises can grow into full-scale businesses that based on the entrepreneur s social ambitions and objectives are in fact full-scale market operations that compete with the existing range on offer. That range may be offered by the authorities but also by other enterprises. The Thomas Houses [Thomashuizen] for people with a learning disability, for example, are a social enterprise that competes with normal care homes. The social objective of offering better small-scale care within the financial limits of collective financing people do not pay extra from their own funds, it is collective regulations and insurance that are involved does not preclude the revenue model. Quite the contrary: it is precisely the social element that appeals to clients and has led to the Thomas Houses quickly filling up, with demand exceeding supply. Other social enterprises compete with government-provided facilities. The Dutch Food Banks [Voedselbanken] are a private supplement to the normal system of social security, debt counselling, and supplementary benefit. They do not replace those arrangements but they do reveal that the minimum guaranteed by government is not sufficient for people who depend on it. Indirectly, this constitutes criticism of the authorities: according to policymakers, people do not need to go to the Food Bank. The two systems exist side by side, but can also get in one another s way. Another development one that we will not deal with in detail here is that individuals are increasingly capable of completing relatively complex, commercial tasks alone or within self-organised groups. 28 That is not the direct subject of the present essay, but it is an important development in this context. The Bread Funds [Broodfondsen] are often given as an example of citizens taking over a task from the authorities, but aside from being an alternative to the official Dutch system of occupational disability insurance, they are also a response to the high premiums that self-employed persons are charged by private insurance companies. The self-employed are not covered by the official collective schemes and they are also unable to afford the policies offered by the large insurance companies. They have therefore begun organising a small-scale system of selective solidarity in the cooperation The Bread Funds. But there are also cooperatives in all kinds of other fields, large and small, for example the supermarket in Sterksel. Residents were concerned that the supermarket in that village whose population is shrinking was set to close, meaning the loss of the village s last facility. They were worried that the absence of facilities would 14

17 lead to even greater population decline. Their answer was to set up a cooperative involving residents and the owner of the supermarket, with the supermarket being run collectively. Locals don t just do their shopping there but work there for a few hours a week. They do not request government funding to support the supermarket; instead, they have taken action and organised one themselves. Movement Initiative and control Example: green areas Active Citizens Citizens take action In addition to the six-monthly service citizen- take on at their own initiative, provided by the municipality, local resi- ship activities in in the manner they dents voluntarily look after their local the public themselves choose, park. They plant up the park themsel- domain. and for matters that ves, or replace the existing plants and they themselves flowers. They create a flowerbed, in a consider important. location not designated by the municipality. Social Social en- An entrepreneur takes Your Neighbourhood Gardener [Tuin- entrepre- trepreneurs an initiative to develop man in de wijk] mobilises residents neurship set up a proposition, based living close to the parks and gardens activities in on a mix of personal, in neighbourhoods in Rotterdam. The the public social, and commercial entrepreneur takes the initial steps domain. motives. The autho- and local residents often quickly follow. rities do not play any The entrepreneur receives money from directing role. funds and sponsors. Table 2: Active citizenship and social entrepreneurship Societisation of the production of public value Production of public value takes place on a large scale within the lower half of the triangle. Pressure to shift production downwards comes both from above and from below. It is an intervention by public authorities but it is also the sum total of a series of initiatives undertaken by citizens and entrepreneurs themselves. The scale and extent vary but it takes place in many fields and in many different ways. When added together, the various movements lead to a trend that after a period of initial collectivisation followed by privatisation can perhaps be referred to as societisation, i.e. the production of public value in the lower half of the triangle, with the authorities withdrawing or sharing public value production with others (see Figure 2). Pop-up public value 15

18 The essential feature of societisation is that the lower part of the triangle becomes of greater significance in producing public value, and that it comes from people s own initiative and efforts. This is often in relationship with the government, but not as the result or as a product of governmental policy. What we will deal with in the rest of this essay are the consequences of societisation for governance by the authorities and how the authorities can productively relate to initiatives and developments such as these. The fact that public value is increasingly generated from the bottom up does not mean that the authorities do not need to be involved topdown or that the role of the authorities is marginalised. What are in fact needed are new strategies, new arrangements, different positioning, and new forms of organisation. The trend towards societisation is more than simply a search for new ways of implementing agreed policies. Inherent to this shift is that the nature of the public value itself changes and thus also becomes political. In that sense, societisation is anything but an innocent phenomenon. 3 government citizen participation privatisation and liberalisation active citizenship societalisation social entrepreneurship society market Figure 2 Changing relationships between government, market, and society in general. 16

19 3 Successive concepts of governance: towards a mixed model Developments such as the Reading Room in Rotterdam-West, and the mode of organisation of public value behind it, can be viewed in the context of the historical development of theories of public administration. 29 What does governance mean in a context in which more and more initiatives of this kind present themselves? In this section, we will show what the development has been in concepts of governance and what new forms now occur in actual practice. Figure 3 illustrates this development. Public performance wog Resilient government systems npm Citizen participation Government Netwerk-governance Society pa right to challenge stimulate self-organization Social entrepreneurship Active citizenship Political choice pa: Public Administration npm: New Public Management wog: Whole-of-Government and Coproduction Figure 3 Dynamics in governance. 30 Pop-up public value 17

20 Two axes: Political choice and Public performance, government and society The vertical axis of Figure 3 represents the emphasis in the efforts. Where is the emphasis within governance? Is it primarily on policy and formulation of the right objectives and programmes or is it primarily on actually producing and delivering the intended performance? When the emphasis is on policy, it involves formulating ambitions and objectives and on the deployment of policy. This is accompanied by political questions regarding distribution, the content of policy, and attention to certain groups. 31 That emphasis is mainly in contrast to the other part of the diagram, namely the emphasis on the implementation, production, and delivery of the agreed performance. 32 Here attention is paid less to specifying the policy objectives to be achieved and more about actually achieving them. In other words, the question is not so much one of Who gets what? as it is whether we are getting what is necessary. This needs to involve questions about efficiency, i.e. efficient production. Is there a loss of production? Are we doing what we have promised? Is performance quantifiable and can it be visualised? Are agencies performing efficiently and is no capacity being lost during implementation? The idea of this part of the diagram is not that no policy should be formulated any longer. The point is the shift in the emphasis of strategic efforts and debates: from a focus on policy formulation to primarily implementation; from an emphasis on the importance of formulating objectives to the quantifiable delivery of those objectives; from doing the right things to doing things right. Policy remains the basis but it is no longer the essence. One example is that of the municipality of Rotterdam. When the Liveable Rotterdam [Leefbaar Rotterdam] party won the council elections in 2002 part of the political upheaval instigated by the late populist politician Pim Fortuyn and took over control of the city from an administration that had been dominated for decades by the Dutch Labour Party [PvdA], the Municipal Executive and the civil service suddenly had to switch from policy to delivery. This went so far that words such as policy and plan were banned and all attention was focused on implementation. It was no longer the city s policymakers but its implementers who were the heroes within the organisation. Scope for policy-making was shifted to implementation and the power of those cooking up policy was roughly torn away from them. The city still had policies, of course, and the Municipal Executive still set priorities, but the emphasis in both word and deed came to be on implementation. Implementation was upgraded from being merely the final phase of policy to the very essence of the efforts. 18

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