Ann Stow
3 min readSep 6, 2021


I hope you dance: & why I think putting people first might help you.

Photo by Toufic Mobarak on Unsplash

When we’re young we dance at the drop of a hat (or less), as we become entrenched in organisational life we are less likely to do so. There is something about dance that connects us, with music, thinking, expression and, of course, with each other. I’m not about to suggest you grab someone in the office and tango the afternoon away (although that might be nice). I am suggesting that the metaphorical dances we do to avoid engaging, challenging and communicating with each other are damaging our organisations and our ability to connect with, and understand, people.

Last week I was fortunate to be included in some amazing events and conversations, all with a people focus and highlighting how collaboration and connection are the way forward for business, community, society and humanity. I confess to getting a little overwhelmed at the ‘bigness’ & messiness of it all. I’d like to thank Steve Cook FRSA & Donna Nelham at #Unstitution / #AgeofHuman for re-expanding my viewpoint and everyone at the #systemsconvening book launch who reinvigorated my belief that people’s voices need to be heard and that making a practical difference is sooo important.

Relationships are key to all of this, and leadership curiosity and lack of ego. Leaders that retain distance from face-to-face workers and are not listening to their employees lived experience will lose out (and that expands out disproportionately to Governments, I believe).

#AgeofHuman has a central aim to make sure the human values that people are now looking for are re-instated in business — responsibility, purpose, trust, empathy, intuition, emotion, creativity, understanding, decency and meaningful interaction.

I love that this approach is gaining traction, seeing changes in approach happening in groups within & throughout organisations (e.g. @RedQuadrant), between communities (e.g. @People’sPowerhouse) and across organisational and local cultures.

Benjamin P. Taylor introduced me to the concept of #systemsconvening. This is about people who use their passion in daily life to make a practical difference for others, “it includes your heart, your identity and passion”, creating legitimacy and inspiring confidence in others.’ Systems conveners see the links that others don’t and forge relationships across silos for more comprehensive outcomes. Some people do this naturally, without thinking and with a sole aim of improving lives.

You can read Benjamin’s post & download the book here!!

People that are willing to challenge the status quo and develop sustainable change across silos, “dance between those that do it in practice and senior leadership.”

This quote brought both #AgeofHuman & #SystemsConveners together for me. This is what is needed in business and government, in communities and groups, this is the dance I hope you, and others want to do.

Personally, I aim to support putting people first, helping groups and organisations realise their route into better practice, through sitting with them, providing space to listen to stories (& especially to give a voice to lived experience), creating participatory change and building in participatory, practice based learning. I may not have my dancing shoes on, but there will be a tune in my head!

Time to stop talking about putting people first. Help me discuss & discover how we turn the talk into action and application, because that’s what’s largely missing.




Ann Stow

Passionate about making organisations more human - one conversation at a time.