Founding Years
The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) was founded as a not-for-profit institution in 2001 on the principle that better global governance can improve people’s lives. At CIGI’s foundation, the focus was to advance policy thinking on issues linked to economic and global policy challenges.

The organization was created through a $30-million endowment, including $20 million from Jim Balsillie and $10 million from Mike Lazaridis, co-CEOs of Research In Motion (BlackBerry). The founding followed an early-2001 retreat that brought together experts, academics and other thought leaders to determine how Canada could increase its capacity to contribute to effective multilateral global governance. Two years later, i
n 2003, CIGI obtained a matching $30-million donation in federal funding, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  

By 2005, CIGI’s research programs were already expanding rapidly with additional staff and experts being added and the organization moving to a larger office. Many projects were creating considerable impact, including CIGI’s proposals for innovation at the G8, which led to the creation of the G20.

Formative Years

From 2007 to 2010, CIGI focused on recalibrating processes and systems, leading to the development of its first five-year strategic plan. 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. 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 2012–2013, CIGI had expanded its in-house research capacity — recruiting directors, 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 International Law Research Program, launched in 2013, represented the third pillar of CIGI’s core research streams along with Global Economy and Global Security & Politics. These three formal research themes continued until 2019. Throughout these years CIGI improved its global ranking on the Global Go-To Think Tank Index by demonstrating strong research and policy influence. In 2019, CIGI was ranked thirty-first out of 6500+ think tanks surveyed from around the world.

A New Era
CIGI’s 2020–2025 Strategic Plan defines a new era for the organization focused on one of the most pressing issues of our time: digital governance. CIGI’s new streamlined research approach crosscuts topics related to big data and platform governance and builds upon existing expertise in the areas of security, trade, law and economics.


As an authoritative source of innovative thinking and working with some of the brightest minds from around the world, CIGI will continue to address significant global issues at the intersection of technology and international governance.

More information is available on CIGI’s Wikipedia page.