CIGI was founded as a not-for-profit institution in 2001 to advance policy thinking on pressing governance issues linked to economic and global policy challenges. By 2005, CIGI’s research programs were already expanding rapidly, with many projects creating considerable impact. Most notably, CIGI’s proposals for innovation in the G8 system helped lead to the creation of the G20 leaders’ summits.

From 2007 to 2010, CIGI focused on recalibrating existing internal management processes and systems, leading to the development of its first five-year strategic plan, for 2010–2015. The plan outlined CIGI’s research under distinct themes, each led by a director. During these years, CIGI also partnered with the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University to launch the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA), culminating in the 2011 completion of construction of the CIGI Campus.

By 2012–2013, CIGI had expanded its in-house research capacity — recruiting directors of the Global Economy and the Global Security & Politics Programs, more research staff and new fellows to lead projects — while also creating a more formal program of work and budget for board approval each year. The increase in project publications and events mirrored the expansion of the program mandates and enhanced capacity.

The International Law Research Program (ILRP), launched in 2013, represents the third pillar of CIGI’s core research streams along with Global Economy and Global Security & Politics. These three themes continue to be complemented by cross-cutting initiatives that focus on development, environment and energy, and other relevant issues, with governance remaining the overarching theme.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank focused on international governance that was founded as a not-for-profit institution on July 30, 2001. The organization was created through a $30-million endowment, including $20 million from Jim Balsillie and $10 million from Mike Lazaridis, co-CEOs of Waterloo-based telecommunications firm Research In Motion (BlackBerry). The founding followed an early-2001 retreat, convened by Balsillie, that brought together experts, academics and other thought leaders to determine how Canada could increase its capacity to contribute to effective multilateral global governance.

Originally named the New Economy Institute, the resulting think tank was renamed the Centre for International Governance Innovation in 2002 to clarify its focus and mission. In 2003, CIGI obtained a matching $30-million donation in federal funding, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  

More information available on CIGI's Wikipedia page.


In the early years, CIGI focused on hiring staff, launching research programs and finding an office. In 2003, CIGI moved from the Waterloo-St. Jacobs railway station to the former Seagram Museum building in Uptown, Waterloo.

Through CIGI, Balsillie and the provincial government co-funded the 2004 creation of IGLOO (International Governance Leaders and Organizations Online), a networking venture that later became incorporated. CIGI also played a central role in the 2005−2007 transformation of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs into the Canadian International Council.


By 2005, CIGI began to experience rapid growth in its research programs. The pace of publishing and events activity increased dramatically in 2005 and has continued at a steady rate. In 2007, CIGI partnered with the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University to launch the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA).  In 2009, CIGI announced plans for the new CIGI Campus in Waterloo. The campus houses CIGI and the BSIA. In time, the campus may also be home to other academic and research institutions, including a proposed CIGI program of research and studies in international law.  The $69-million CIGI Campus received federal and provincial funding totalling $50 million through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program and Ontario's 2009 budget. The City of Waterloo donated the land for the campus through a 99-year lease.


By 2010, CIGI was producing over 100 publications annually and employing more than 30 global governance experts across its research programs. Some projects had considerable impact — most notably, CIGI’s proposals for innovation in the G8 system helped lead to the creation of the G20 leaders group. In 2010, the organization renewed its research program themes and produced a five-year strategic plan (2010−2015) ahead of CIGI’s tenth anniversary in 2011. The plan states CIGI’s vision, mission and beliefs, and outlines a series of goals and tactics to help ensure the think tank has influence and impact with measurable results of its work.


In January 2011, CIGI announced $25 million in funding for a five-year partnership with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), a New York-based think tank founded by George Soros, to explore innovations in economics. The CIGI-INET partnership will support research grants, campus outreach activities and joint conferences on economic issues, in Canada and internationally.

While still a relatively young organization, CIGI has already established itself as an authoritative source of innovative thinking about international governance, with considerable research-based contributions to thinking about significant global issues, a robust program of conferences, workshops and public events, and a network of dialogue and influence that extends around the world.


As it marked its tenth anniversary in 2011, CIGI was really just setting out on its journey. Given CIGI’s stated vision to be “the world’s leading think tank on international governance with recognized impact on significant global problems,” and realizing the magnitude of the issues to be tackled — global economic crises, the dangers of climate change, the immense disparities in world development and threats to security, including nuclear risks and armed conflict — the road toward “recognized impact” appeared to be long and challenging. Helping to transform how the entire planet’s nation-states and people interact among themselves is no small objective.