Brandon University names Dr. Wayne Kelly to lead Rural Development Institute

A familiar face is returning to lead the Rural Development Institute (RDI) at Brandon University. Dr. Wayne Kelly has been named Interim Director of the research centre, which is a leading source of information on issues affecting rural communities in Western Canada and beyond.

“We are beyond pleased to welcome Dr. Kelly back to RDI, where his experience and connections are a perfect fit,” said Dr. Balfour Spence, Acting Dean of Arts at BU, which oversees RDI. “The Rural Development Institute is a major interface between Brandon University and the rural communities we serve, and Dr. Kelly brings the right mix of insight and vision to keep RDI at the forefront of rural issues here in Westman and around the world.”

Dr. Kelly has worked in innovative rural development research roles as Research Manager in private sector R&D and for 11 years as a Project Coordinator and Researcher at RDI itself. In those roles, Dr. Kelly has extensive experience developing, leading, and coordinating rural and community development projects with teams of highly qualified personnel, community advisors and partners.

“I’m very excited to lead RDI in the institute’s next phase at Brandon University; this is a critical time for rural areas, and we can continue to collect and share essential knowledge,” Dr. Kelly said.

“I am keen to contribute to our understanding and support to rural communities, regions and people as they navigate the impacts and new realities of COVID-19, population change, digitalization and more.”

Dr. Kelly’s research focuses on participatory-based applied and action research, rural development theory, and community engagement in Manitoba and across Canada.  The specific research topics and issues for the participatory projects span rural development areas, including rural policy and research methods, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), economic development and well-being, capacity building, and community data collection. Dr. Kelly has published numerous research reports and findings in peer reviewed publications and reports. He also has an extensive record of mobilizing those research outcomes through local, national, and international presentations, through webinars, podcasts and media interviews.

Previously at RDI, Dr. Kelly’s responsibilities included overseeing and managing a $2.5 million SSHRC partnership project that focused on establishing a Rural Policy Learning Commons. During his recent Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Winnipeg in partnership with Function Four Ltd. (F4), Dr. Kelly co-led the design and implementation of a community assessment research team with the Indigenous partner, F4, to support their circular farm development initiative for Indigenous communities. The leadership role in the community assessment team has accompanied Dr. Kelly in his return to RDI and he continues to support and work with community engagement and education teams on this project, coordinating funding, implementation and outcomes with the teams, the funder, and the industry partner.

Dr. Kelly began the role starting January 9, 2023.



Brandon University has been a cornerstone of the City of Brandon and southwestern Manitoba for over a century. Throughout this time, Brandon University has maintained its foundation as a rurally-based university with strong national and international links.

Brandon University established the Rural Development Institute (RDI) in 1989 as an academic research center and a leading source of information on issues affecting rural communities in Western Canada and beyond.

RDI establishes new partnerships; conducts multi-disciplinary research; promotes the development of new community projects; shares findings, and nurtures new generations of rural researchers among students, community members and rural stakeholders.

RDI has diverse research affiliations, and multiple community and government linkages related to its rural development mandate. RDI disseminates knowledge and information to a variety of constituents and stakeholders and makes research information and results widely available to the public either in printed form or by means of public lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences, webinars, and social media.


  • RDI is focused on improving the well-being of rural communities and regions in Manitoba and beyond through research and action.
  • RDI has used applied research primarily, focusing on outcomes that have practical and real potential implications for communities.
  • While RDI will continue to employ applied research approaches, increasingly RDI is going to incorporate and focus on action-based research. This type of research is by default participatory and developed with the communities, regions and people that RDI supports in rural Manitoba. Through action research, RDI will strive to create benefits and capacity during the research process and activities in addition to creating world class leading applied research findings.
  • Historically RDI has focused research and activities on rural innovation, economic development, governance and capacity building, infrastructure, and immigration.
  • These strategic research directions will evolve to continue to reflect the realities of rural Manitoba that has been impacted by COVID-19, climate change, reconciliation, migration patterns, rapidly expanding digital society and more in recent years. RDI will work with communities, researchers, government, and key partners to identify critical areas for rural research and action that RDI can lead/support.


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