The Atkinson Foundation (AF) recognized the need to create an independent and credible national voice to measure the economic, health, social and environmental wellbeing of Canadians. AF incubated the CIW as an in-house project until the end of 2010 when they found a permanent home for the CIW at the University of Waterloo.
- AF convened Canadian index experts to look at how to create a tool to measure the wellbeing of Canadians.
Working with the Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN), ACF sponsored a project "Asking Citizens What Matters for Quality of Life” and then develops a prototype of quality of life national indicators. The project involved consultations with 346 participants in 40 discussion groups across Canada.
- The Canadian Research Advisory Group (CRAG) was established to develop the CIW.
- AF set up a Funders' Alliance to enable the development of the CIW.
- CRAG begins work on the first five domains of the CIW framework. They include Living Standards, Community Vitality, Healthy Populations, Education, and Time Use.
Three sets of public consultations are held in communities across the country to engage hundreds of everyday Canadians. Feedback is received and a network of local champions is seeded.
From 2009 to 2010, special reports and the eight domains were released.
- CIW Network moved to permanent home within the Faculty of Health at the University of Waterloo and releases the first complete version of the CIW's signature product, the CIW national composite index. The resulting 368 media stories reach 34 million people worldwide.
- The CIW released the second and third national index reports (2012 and 2016). The next iteration is planned for release in 2022.
- Three provincial index reports have now been released: Ontario (2014), Nova Scotia (2018), Saskatchewan (2019).
- A series of regional wellbeing portrait reports now exist: five for Ontario (2016); Oxford County (2017); Waterloo Region (2018); Rural Ontario (2020); Yukon (2021).
- The CIW developed a Community Wellbeing Survey in 2012, and has now completed them in nine communities for the first time: Guelph (2012), Victoria (2013), Kingston (2013), Oxford County (2016), Bruce and Grey Counties (2018), Orillia and Area (2018), throughout Nova Scotia (2019) and two communities for the second time (Wood Buffalo-Alberta (2014 and 2019); Waterloo Region (2013 and 2018).
- In 2018-2019, with UNICEF Canada, the CIW helped develop the Canadian Child and Youth Well-being Index that will track child and youth wellbeing across Canada over time.
- In 2019, the CIW Community Wellbeing Survey was first adapted and used to track post-secondary student wellbeing at Georgian College, Ontario.
- In 2020-2021, with UNICEF Canada and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the CIW helped develop and pilot a Canadian Child and Youth Well-being Survey (limited pilot in Waterloo Region in 2020; expanded in 2021 to Halton Region, Ottawa and area, Waterloo Region, and Tri-Counties area of Nova Scotia -- Digby, Shelburne, Yarmouth). Results to be released in 2022.
- In 2020, the Yukon Government became the first territory and first government to conduct the CIW Community Wellbeing Survey in-house and throughout their territory. Report released in 2021.