PhD Student & Researcher, University of Guelph
Ashleigh Weeden is an award-winning rural innovator who splits her time between Ontario’s Grey, 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. Notably, as part of this initiative, Ashleigh created Grey County’s successful ‘Ag 4.0’ initiative, working at the intersection of her passions and talents to generate community conversations about the future of rural communities in the digital economy. Ashleigh also provided strategic communications and community engagement support for the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Initiative for several years, including supporting Indigenous engagement in the project. SWIFT is the largest publicly funded regional broadband project in Canada to date, serving more than 3.5 million people by building #broadbandforeveryone in Southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region.
A proud graduate of both the University of Guelph (B.A. Honours in International Development) and the University of Victoria (MPA), Ashleigh is currently a PhD student in Rural Studies at the University of Guelph, where she is focused on researching rural innovation ecosystems, agricultural technology, community capacity building, and strategic infrastructure investment.
Ashleigh’s work advocating for people-centred public service and connectivity-driven innovation in rural communities can be read in publications like Toronto Life, Canadian Government Executive, and Municipal World. As a writer, facilitator, and community developer, Ashleigh has spent the better part of the last decade leading and collaborating with progressive municipal governments and engaged citizens to bridge the divide between decision makers and their communities and create meaningful, collaborative change.