hilaryHilary Van Welter
CEO, Ascentia

Hilary Van Welter has spent over 30 years leading expeditions into the future. Her specialty lies in mobilizing players of all sectors – private, public and social, to individually and collectively engage in fundamental and strategic change. Hilary has a special interest in exploring the changing business, social and cultural landscapes and frontiers, uncovering uncharted territory and unleashing hidden potential – within the person, family, organization, community, business or marketplace.


Hilary spent the first fifteen years of her career in the federal government in both management and policy development in a number of departments, with a rare opportunity to live the entire lifecycle of a central agency – The Ministry of Economic and Regional Development – its creation, its regionalization and its ‘winding down’. Her last assignment in the federal government was a lead Director in the Revitalization of the Canada Employment Service for Employment and Immigration (CEIC).


Hilary spent the next 10 years of her career as the Executive Vice President of the Proactive Group of Companies where she headed up the Toronto Office. Hilary lead large scale strategic change projects across the sectors, Federal Fisheries & Oceans, Ontario Ministry of Health, Ontario Police College, Ministry of the Solicitor General, Round Tables on the Albert Economy, Health and Economic Departments, Prince Edward Island, Office of the Premier, Nova Scotia, the Town of Cobourg and the City of Burlington, Shell Canada, Wrigley’s Canada, and Shirmax Limited. Hilary also undertook fascinating contracts such as initiating and leading the Innovation and Deployment Initiative at Bell Mobility, and the creation and delivery of Leading for Success with the Banff Centre for Management – a very popular and inventive leadership and organizational development program that integrated economics, organizational culture, outward bound and the arts.


Also during this time Hilary lead the creation of unique organizations that utilized innovative organizational models and frameworks to achieve important mandates. This included the development of new models of advocacy when she lead the creation of the Canadian Breast Cancer Network, (which sowed the initial seeds and momentum behind the current Breast Cancer movement) the National HIV Positive Women’s Community, (the first of its kind to mobilize services to meet the different needs of HIV+ women) and the Youth Internet Crusade for World Peace. Hilary co-produced the first Canadian National Internet Show with the role of exploring the future of the Internet and the integration of the learning, cultural and business communities – when the Internet was in its infancy, with teens as the lead explorers.


In 1998 Hilary created two businesses Ascentia and The Business Spa where she leveraged the experience of the previous 25 years and delved into the true nature and frontier of human change. Hilary is an accredited Reiki Master and healer who has developed a unique system of healing that helps people of all ages break through their chronic patterns and dysfunctional beliefs to create fresher and healthier bodies, relationships and lives. This work and experimentation has led to blended eastern and western methodologies and technologies that help people and organizations reframe the chronic and tough issues in research-based, intelligent and inspiring ways while creating a new pathway to the future. Clients for this unique form of ‘futurecasting’  include the American Express, Association for Community Living, Business Development Bank, Canadian Executive Council on Addictions, Johnson & Johnson Medical Products, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Regional Municipality of York, University of Toronto, York Region District School Board, a full range of Canadian music industry organizations, and small businesses.


Hilary is currently leading a number of change initiatives including ReWilding Lake Simcoe, a $1.6 million collaborative project that is aimed to inspire a renaissance of Lake Simcoe communities through a partnership between people and nature. Redesigning of public spaces through unique community engagement to bring to life 21st century possibilities for both Lake Simcoe and the lives of those who live in the watershed is one of the prime focuses.


Hilary has been a Guest Faculty for the University of Toronto’s Executive Development Program, as well as faculty at the Ontario Police College. She was also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council of Carleton University. Hilary was a member of the Greater Toronto Advisory Board for the Salvation Army for 10 years where she was the Chair of the Program Committee. Hilary is the recent Chair of Windfall Ecology Centre which is a community based organization whose Mission is to inspire communities in the creation of a sustainable future. She is a recent Board member of Ladies of the Lake, an innovative grassroots NGO whose mission is to help protect and restore Lake Simcoe to health.


Hilary is currently co-authoring a book with her twin sister Lesley Southwick-Trask entitled The Hallway of the Inbetween. This is a book about where we go when have left one place in our lives, and are not sure which door to open next. One can end up in the hallway because of finishing school, losing a job, a failure of a business venture, or a bankruptcy. We can also be forced into the hallway with a diagnosis, a death of a friend of family member, breakdown of a relationship, or family crisis, or dealing with an addiction. This hallway is crowded with people of all ages who have closed one set of doors and while some are lost, others are seeking to open ones to new possibilities. Hilary and Lesley believe our economy and many of our communities are in this hallway. This book is a series of stories about their personal experiences of navigating the hallway, as well as others who have taken the hallway experience and are using it to figure out how to not only change their lives, but in so doing shining a light on possibilities for others.