(CIGI Photo / Tom Arban)
(CIGI Photo / Tom Arban)

We have arrived! CIGI has moved its world headquarters to a new building, the South Wing of the marvellous CIGI Campus.

We said farewell to our previous headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada – an iconic former Seagram distillery warehouse and whiskey museum. Visitors to that historic site were always agog on entering the lobby, where hundreds of oak barrels line the walls to the lofty ceiling. Visitors would routinely ask whether any barrels were still full, and CIGI staff would joke back that we’d tested them all with a drill and come up empty – but that now we only “distill ideas” for policy, including on the “liquidity” of the global financial system.

The whiskey warehouse was a great home for this think tank for 11 years, the site of dozens of conferences and workshops on policy innovation, and scores of public lectures on world issues. World leaders, top policy makers, renowned scholars and even royalty from various countries visited. And it was certainly a grand improvement on our first home, from our founding in 2001 to 2003, in a wee former train station. Explorations are underway for a new use of the Seagram building.

CIGI is even more fortunate, now, to reside in the new CIGI Campus building, opened in 2011. This award-winning facility was designed by KPMB Architects of Toronto and has been recognized with multiple awards for architectural excellence, including a Governor-General’s Medal this past year.  It is modelled on the traditional “Oxbridge” academic building, as a three-story quadrangle with an interior courtyard and a bell tower. At the same time, the CIGI Campus is also spacious, modern and flooded with natural light, featuring many forward-looking environmental qualities such as a green roof, energy efficiency and gray-water recycling.

This wonderful facility was built with $50 million joint federal and provincial funding under the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, and a matching grant from CIGI chair and founder Jim Balsillie, on land donated by the City of Waterloo.  It is home to several organizations focused on global affairs, including: the Balsillie School of International Affairs (the post-graduate school is a three-way partnership among CIGI and two universities), the International Migration Research Centre, the Academic Council on the United Nations Systems – and now, CIGI itself.

Packing up and moving isn't something you want to do every year, or even every decade. Every staff member helped, sorting through files and papers to see what they would take or toss. We hired movers, of course, but had to do some of the heavy lifting ourselves. Kudos to the CIGI librarian who, with two volunteers, packed up the best of CIGI’s considerable books-and-journals collection while keeping it in catalogued order. Other heroes of the move include the CIGI I.T. team who seamlessly transitioned our servers and applications, and especially the CIGI Facilities team who led the entire caravan. 

Despite the grime and perspiration, moving can also be invigorating. It forces one to confront legacies, habits and hoarding – and to address new ways to configure working spaces for better functionality. In the end, we cleaned house, streamlined and improved our conditions.

And isn’t that process similar to the thinking that drives CIGI’s core mandate:  to address the aging, creaky and somewhat dysfunctional post-World-War-II systems of multilateralism that govern the global economy, global security and international law? We can’t all move to another planet (heavens forbid), but if we did have to do so, we would think about what to leave behind and what to reinvent. Maybe we can apply good ideas for innovation to global frameworks, without as much heavy lifting.

Photos of CIGI’s move to the new CIGI Campus building: 

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.