Dr. S. Ashleigh Weeden
Day 1 Opening Keynote Address

Dr. S. Ashleigh Weeden opens R2R24 with the question,

Dr. Weeden is an award-winning rural futurist who splits her time between Ontario’s Bruce and Wellington Counties. She is currently working as an independent researcher and consultant and serves as a Research Associate with the Ontario Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She is a long-time advocate for the power of participatory and place-based approaches as critical mechanisms for creating effective public policy. Her recently completed doctoral research focused on the role of stories in shaping rural policy and realities, using the nuclear energy sector as an entry-point for examining the relationships between place, power, and policy. Prior to becoming ‘Dr. Weeden’, Ashleigh spent the first half of her career working in public administration for a number of municipalities across Ontario, working on transformative projects related to community engagement, infrastructure, and economic development.

Dr. Weeden is recognized as a thought leader on rural renewal, policy foresight, infrastructure planning, public sector leadership, and ‘the right to be rural.’ She has developed a reputation for ‘speaking truth to power’ and has provided expert commentary to outlets and organizations like Buzzfeed News, the Ryerson Review of Journalism, the David Hume Institute (Scotland), the Scottish Government, CBC News, and CTV News, as well as several podcasts and community news outlets.

Dr. Weeden has published widely in both academic and popular press and her work can be read in publications like The Conversation Canada, the Journal of Rural and Community Development, the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, the Annals of Regional Science, IRPP Policy Options, the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, Rural Policy Learning Commons, CIGI Online, and Municipal World.


Dr. Wendy H. Wong
Day 2 Keynote Address & Story Circle Presenter

Dr. Wendy H. Wong unravels the sticky issues of AI and data when it comes to human rights, global governance, international relations and, especially, data rights through a rural lens.

Award-winning author and professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in the department of political science. Wendy’s interests include emerging technologies, human rights, data/AI, global governance, NGOs, social movements, non-state actors, and humanitarian assistance.

This B.C.-based scholar is among the finalists for the 2024 Lionel Gelber Prize. She is nominated for her book, We, The Data: Human rights in the digital age which highlights how pervasive data collection and tracking are in everyday life. Laying the foundation for future policy, We, The Data calls for human rights to be extended to encourage human potential when data threatens to complicate how we progress.

She has also co-authored two other award-winning books, Internal Affairs and The Authority Trap (with Sarah S. Stroup), both published by Cornell University Press and penned dozens of peer-reviewed articles and chapters. Dr. Wong has appeared in outlets such as the CBC, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and The Conversation.

Dr. Wendy H. Wong is a Member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. She Is currently Faculty Affiliate at the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society (SRI) at the University of Toronto in Global Governance and Civil Society. From 2012-2017, Dr. Wong was Director of the Trudeau Center for Peace, Conflict, and Justice at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.



Ellie Joseph – Mohawk Elder from Six Nations
Day 2 Story Circle Presenter

Ellie Joseph, Mohawk Elder joins Dr. Wendy Wong and Ailsa Clark to share stories about our current direction of travel and how leading from curiosity helps to explore our differences together.

Ellie Joseph, Mohawk Elder from Six Nations is of the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan, born, raised, and still lives on the Six Nations Reserve along the bank of The Grand River. She retired from a thirty-four-year tenure as a classroom teacher of Elementary School in our public school system a decade ago but remains an active volunteer in the education field, and tutors privately.

After paddling on the sixteen-day Two Row Renewal Campaign from Albany to Manhattan, New York, on The Hudson River in 2013, Ellie Joseph was one of four participants who established what is now known as “Two Row on the Grand.” Functioning as a grassroots volunteer committee, they have watched this project’s participation increase in size. Two Row on the Grand is an annual nine-day family-oriented camping and paddling excursion on The Grand River, starting in Cambridge and ending at Port Maitland, Lake Erie.


Ailsa Clark – Founder of Inspiralba, ScotlandDay 2 Story Circle Presenter

Ailsa Clark of Inspiralba in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, joins Dr. Wendy Wong and Ellie Joseph, Mohawk Elder to share stories about our current direction of travel and how leading from curiosity helps to explore our differences together.

Born and raised in Argyll, Scotland with experience working locally, nationally, and in Australia and South Africa. Ailsa Clark founded Inspiralba in 2009, recognizing the passion and determination in rural communities and the significant hoops and bureaucracy people have to navigate. She has been able to bring experience from income generation, business, networking, and community development into practice through the inter-related strands of Inspiralba’s work; coordinating third sector delivery of employability opportunities with a focus on tailored person-centred support as well as provision of business support for social and community enterprises across Argyll and the Islands. She has also provided an advocacy role for rural social enterprise as well as access and progression routes for young people in the rural economy. Established www.ruralsehub.net in 2019 to support networking, collaboration, information, and learning resources for the rural social and community-led enterprise bringing experience and connections from across Europe and further afield.