Why we should all become personally regenerative
— Charlie Felgate, Vision Leader
Passionate about sports, owner of a translation company, and also involved as a volunteer, Charlie’s most recent role was connecting neurons and people at Decathlon as Vision Leader. He also headed up their internal trends entity named Decathlon Perspectives. Charlie’s also into strategic foresight, collective intelligence, and more recently has discovered the notion of Regeneration. Most of all, he likes to find things out before they become ‘a thing’.
Can you quickly describe yourself, who you are, what you do?
I’m Charlie. I am a human. Dad of 3, husband (still work in progress). 46 year old English guy living in France for 25 years. I like to think of myself as an intrapreneur and entrepreneur. What do I do? Try and be as useful as I can to those striving for positive impact. My previous role with Decathlon was Vision Leader, co-creating massive, open, global exercises of collective intelligence. Then delivering the results, and helping teammates make sense of them all, going from ‘Vision to Action’. I was then at the helm of an internal trends entity called Decathlon Perspectives. I also own a translation company since 2006, have worked in the music industry, and am involved in several other activities as a volunteer.
What are your favourite topics right now?
I love playing sport, watching sport, taking my kids to their sport, debating sport, cooking, discovering new cultures, walking in the forest, listening to silence, listening to loud rock music, tasting wine, watching people who people watch. I like to find things out before they become ‘a thing’. I love sensing journeys as opposed to learning expeditions.
On a more professional front (although there are very few borders for me between personal and professional lives), I’m super interested in strategic foresight, collective intelligence, and more recently in the notions of Economics of Mutuality, Permaentreprise, the Inner Development Goals and Regeneration. In 2022, I trained in ‘How to be a Permaleader’, and ‘Regenerative Leadership’.
My favourite topics right now have got to be Regeneration, and the Inner Development Goals. Let’s start with Regeneration.
How did you become aware of it?
Why do less bad when you can do good, right? The objective of Regeneration is to live in symbiosis with nature, leaving the world better than we found it.
I first heard the word Regeneration on a visit to Interface (Amsterdam) in June 2017. I didn’t really know what it meant as I was still getting my head around circularity at that time. It popped up a few years later in our Vision exercise. We were searching for something that seemed to go beyond net positive, and we found Kate Raworth’s Donut theory. This was the first time I had seen a model that fixed limits and that talked of responsible growth. The concept became clearer a few months later when I met Laura Storm in May 2021. I invited her along to speak at a conference that I provocatively called ‘Sustainability is dead, long live Regeneration’. This moment led me to go on quite a journey, that I am still on.
In parallel, having worked on a tonne of collective intelligence exercises, I often find myself perplexed as to why we are not making progress towards solving the SDGs despite everyone wanting to. It seems to me that we are stuck in a system way bigger than ourselves. So I went looking for solutions within a different system. And what I found was nature.
The Regenerative Leadership Course that I am following lasts a year, and you quickly realize that there are no quick fixes or half day seminars providing the keys to solve problems using Regenerative principles. We first have to ‘become’ regenerative in order to undertake regenerative business. We’re talking about deep changes within systems. As Peter Senge says, ‘all systemic change has always ever been deeply personal’. So this approach will take time, decades even.
What are the stakes, the changes and opportunities that it can bring?
People are stressed, everything is stressed, systems are stressed. Current practices add stress to systems that are already failing. The brokenness creates a huge burden on social and ecological systems. There is a negative feedback loop between systems, people and the planet. Without critical action, something’s got to give, something’s going to break. The word regenerative means to revitalize, restore, replenish, and heal. Inspired by living systems, this means leaving things better than how we found them.
From a business perspective, companies, businesses, institutions, individuals, all need to regenerate the depletion and the extraction that have been caused to inner and outer ecosystems to produce goods. It is a question both of renewing resources, but also of allowing ecosystems to remain healthy, to repair themselves or/and regain their balance on their own. Regenerative systems enable communities to thrive.
My conviction: if companies are to thrive after 2040, it will be because they have left the degenerative pathway of ‘business as usual’, and will have begun a new journey, which aims to restore, replenish and align with nature, the only system that has stood the test of time. I think that there is a good chance that only businesses who do this will survive into the latter part of the 21st century.
What I find the most exciting is that the regenerative concept brings with it a radical new approach and new narrative. The pathway will be long and uncomfortable as it requires a new mindset, a new posture, and the capacity to auto-regulate (fix limits). It will push us to ask new questions, to de-learn, to encourage us to slow down and embark on a new journey, fit for the 21st century.
What are the obstacles and risks?
A big challenge is being able to prove that it is possible to deconstruct 20th century linear models, and finding regenerative business cases with proof of impact.
Questions such as, ‘what is our relationship with soil’, don’t come naturally for the majority of businesses. Kind of strange when you think about it, as the earth has given us everything. Regenerative principles will be perceived as being counter-cultural from a business perspective.
It’s also super deep, and requires time. Not only time to understand, but also time to settle and connect with nature, time to be creative, and time to deploy.
When you pull on the strings of why we aren’t making the progress that we need to be, we end up with 2 over-riding problems : Shifting Mindsets and Short term vs Long term thinking. So I intend to focus on these topics for now and for the future.
Another pitfall to avoid : we can’t do with regeneration what we did with sustainability. It is already being used as a new buzzword, without anyone paying attention to what it really means.
"We can’t do with regeneration what we did with sustainability. It is already being used as a new buzzword."
What about the Inner Development Goals?
I discovered these at exactly the right moment, in April 2022. I had become more and more fascinated by our collective inability to make progress towards solving the SDGs, which dropped in 2015. These 17 global challenges are supposedly meant to be solved by 2030. We are at the halfway point today and it’s fair to say that we haven’t made much progress. Largely because these 17 challenges were looked at from a technical perspective.
This collective inertia gave rise to the Inner Development Goals (IDGs), which is an essential framework of transformative skills for sustainability. This framework consists of 5 dimensions and 23 skills and qualities that leaders are going to need to address the SDGs, but are actually valid for anyone. It seems to be a great accelerator in solving the SDGs, and heading towards a more prosperous future.
We will need to train present and future leaders using the Inner Development Goals if we are to head towards Regenerative business. We can’t do with regeneration what we did with sustainability. It is already being used as a new buzzword.
Who are the players in this field and where can we learn more?
Regenerators, with Laura Storm. Christophe Sempels (Agence Lumia), Thomas Breuzard (Permaentreprise), Standard Deviation (Lara Pagnier and Mawuena Tendar), John Elkington, Andrew Winston, Nora Bateson, Paul Hawken, and innerdevelopmentgoals.org.
To finish with, as John Fullerton, Regenerative Economist says, ‘this isn’t an era of change, it’s a change of era!’