The predecessor organization to 3ci was the Centre for the Study of Training, Investment and Economic Restructuring (CSTIER), a multi-disciplinary organized research unit in Carleton University’s Faculty of Public Affairs and Management. From 1993 to 2003, the Centre grew to become one of the Faculty’s largest and most active research units, working with all sectors–non-profits, unions, business and governments–to generate action-oriented research on strategies for community and economic renewal in a changing Canadian and world economy.

With strong support from the Dean’s Office, and engaging some 20 faculty members and more than 30 students in its work during this period, CSTIER:

  • launched the bilingual Community Economic Development Technical Assistance Program (CEDTAP), which has become the country’s leading non-profit grantmaker and knowledge network in the social economy;
  • conducted leading-edge research on regional economic diversification and governance of Canada’s Capital Region;
  • placed Carleton students in community organizations in Eastern Ontario to promote CED, small business and youth development;
  • carried out nationally disseminated research on women in CED, angel investors, women-owned small businesses, and rural manufacturing enterprises;
  • conducted impact analysis of labour-sponsored venture capital funds, and prepared case studies of innovative workplace change;
  • with trade unions and scholars, designed and tested training curricula in ethical and community investment strategies and corporate governance standards;
  • incubated the start-up of the Carleton-World Bank International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDEC), a residential professional development initiative; and
  • jointly designed and led the formation of an international knowledge network on local economic development involving Carleton, the Canadian International Development Agency, CUSO and non-governmental organizations from Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Brazil and El Salvador.

3ci’s original signature project was the Community Economic Development Technical Assistance Program (CEDTAP), which provided grants for technical assistance in community economic development.  Over that period $10 million was distributed to CED organizations in Canada. In 2008 CEDTAP moved from grant making to knowledge mobilization drawing on the dataset gathered on CED practices across Canada.

The merger of the Carleton Centre for Voluntary Sector Research and Development (CVSRD) with 3ci in 2011 was another important milestone. CVSRD was a sister research centre in the Faculty of Public Affairs, created in 1999, to conduct research on and for the voluntary sector.  CVSRD was home to one of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s first Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) projects on voluntary sector evaluation, from 2000 to 2005. CVSRD led numerous initiatives focused on process evaluation in the voluntary sector, and ran student exchanges programs with civil society organizations in Europe, the United States and Mexico. CVSRD, in association with the Carleton School of Public Policy and Administration, ran the first ‘Intro to the Nonprofit Sector’ course (still taught today in the School). Thid course eventually gave rise to the Master’s degree in Non-Profit Leadership (MPNL) under the guidance of Professor Susan Phillips. Over time, the work of 3ci and CVSRD converged, leading to a formal merger between the two research centres, under the 3ci name, in 2011.