A proud graduate of both the University of Guelph (B.A. Honours in International Development) and the University of Victoria (Master of Public Administration), Ashleigh Weeden is currently a PhD Candidate in the School of Environmental Design & Rural Development at the University of Guelph. Her research focuses on place-based rural innovation, community capacity building, and future-oriented public policy. Ashleigh returned to academic research after nearly a decade of work spent leading and supporting award-winning civic innovation initiatives across Ontario. Her 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 (ICF) and the top achiever in its population category in the 2018 ICF ‘By the Numbers’ report. During the same period, she also also provided strategic communications and community engagement support for the largest publicly funded regional broadband project in Canada to date, the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Initiative, including supporting Indigenous engagement in the project. A widely published commentator on rural development, infrastructure, and public sector renewal, Ashleigh's work can be read in publications like Torontoist, Canadian Government Executive, and Municipal World.