Ashleigh Weeden is an award-winning rural innovator who splits her time between Ontario’s Bruce and Wellington Counties. A long-time advocate for community engagement, open government, and meaningful applied technological innovation, Ashleigh’s work leading Grey County’s Connected County Initiative directly contributed to the County receiving recognition as one of the Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2017 by the Intelligent Community Forum and the top achiever in its population category in the 2018 ‘By the Numbers’ report from the ICF. From 2012 to 2017, Ashleigh also provided strategic communications and community engagement support to the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology initiative – Canada’s largest publicly funded regional broadband project to date – including facilitating Indigenous consultation and engagement in the project.
Ashleigh is currently completing her PhD in Rural Studies at the University of Guelph. Her research interests include rural innovation, community capacity building, and future-oriented public policy. Her work is fundamentally concerned with the way people, place, and power dynamics play out in rural communities. From broadband infrastructure to economic development, public sector renewal to people-based leadership, Ashleigh’s advocacy for thoughtful, evidence-informed approaches to building resiliency while facing multiple uncertain futures can be read in publications like The Conversation, IRPP Policy Options, the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, The Torontoist, Canadian Government Executive, and Municipal World. She has also provided expert commentary on issues in contemporary rural development to outlets like Buzzfeed News, the CBC, the Philanthropist, the Ryerson Review of Journalism, and many other media outlets across print, radio, television, and podcasting. You can learn more about Ashleigh’s doctoral research and her work as a part of the research team under the Libro Professor in Regional Economic Development at www.ruraldev.ca