CIGI set to celebrate 10 years

CIGI has come a long way since it began a decade ago as a small collection of people brainstorming ideas in the old Waterloo train station.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation, now celebrating its tenth anniversary, has since grown into an internationally recognized think-tank, known for its contributions to global governance policy research.

“We started with a blank slate,” said Fred Kuntz, vice president of public affairs at CIGI. “We had three employees in 2002.”

The organization, founded by Research in Motion (RIM) co-CEO Jim Balsillie, now employs 50 permanent staff and approximately 25 research fellows.

Kuntz continued, “International people around the world in our … scholarly community … have heard of CIGI and they know its work and they know the quality of the people there.”

The most recent development has been the building of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, which will provide programs open to both master’s and doctoral studies students.

The building is located beside the former Seagram museum –which was originally known as the Seagram Distillery, constructed in 1857, where CIGI is housed, and opens its doors to students and faculty on Sept. 22.

Students at the undergraduate level are encouraged to become involved as CIGI volunteers or by attending events. Said Kuntz, “We absolutely need the energy, the innovative thinking, the intellectual contribution that tomorrow’s leaders in public policy can bring today to our thinking.”

While the open invitation events held at CIGI consistently draw full crowds, student attendance seems to be lacking.

Executive director of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) and political science professor Alistair Edgar commented, “They have excellent speakers, excellent subjects, very contemporary issues being discussed down there that I wish more of our undergraduate community would come down to.”

CIGI’s research, which is focused on global economy, global development, environment and energy and global security, could benefit students in many fields of study at Laurier. Edgar’s suggestion for increased attendance: make it mandatory.

“We can have participation and attendance [at CIGI events] as part of our course requirements, and indeed, work with CIGI or the Balsillie School to have speakers up into our own classrooms too for a guaranteed audience,” he explained.

Edgar described the new campus as a “major accelerator” for the organization overall.

“It’s becoming a hub of think-tanks, different schools, a bunch of related institutions all around the issue of international affairs but all working together,” he said.

Big announcements for additional growth can be expected in the next one or two years, according to Kuntz.

Negotiations are already underway to develop an international law program, potentially partnering CIGI with an Ontario law school.

The opening anniversary celebrations for CIGI will begin on Sept.16, with a performance from Canadian activist-singer and Juno Award winner, K’naan, along with a series of speakers. Although attendance has filled, the event will also be webcast globally on CIGI’s website.

An open house will be held the following day, where guided tours of CIGI and the Balsillie School will be provided.

A conference will be held on Sept. 20 under the title “Can Think Tanks Make a Difference?” with celebrations concluding on the following Thursday, with a lecture by humanitarian Dr. James Orbinski.

More information can be found online at CIGI’s website.