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About the Prize

The Balsillie Prize is awarded annually for a book of nonfiction that advances and influences policy debates on a wide range of social, political, economic, or cultural topics relevant to Canadians. The prize celebrates excellence in quality of thought and style and underlines the important role books play in advancing public discourse and bringing new ideas to Canadian policymakers.

The selected books will combine new insights with impressive research, offering thought-provoking contributions to debates on issues that impact both public consciousness and Canadian policymakers. The prize especially values bold works that bring public policy issues to the general reading public.

Sponsorship of this prize is part of a $3 million commitment to supporting our nation's literature by Canadian businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie.

2021 Winner

Dan Breznitz

Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World

Oxford University Press

Jury Citation

"A gnawing worry of Canadian public policy pundits, practitioners, and scholars can be summarized in one word: 'innovation.' How can we innovate more? Faster? Do we innovate enough? In his insightful book Innovation in Real Places, Dan Breznitz deftly argues that Canadians often confuse 'innovation' with 'invention.' His research demonstrates that by focusing on the invention side — creating the next new thing — Canadian policy and industry largely miss the major benefits of the innovation train. Breznitz offers advice for leaders at all levels: you don’t have to invent it; you do, however, have to bring it to market in a better way."

—2021 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy Jury (Samantha Nutt, Taki Sarantakis, and Scott Young)

2021 Finalists

2021 Jury Statement

“It has been a distinct privilege and pleasure to read a wide variety of public policy books these past few months. As jurors, we were tasked with celebrating excellence in Canadian public policy writing, and we actively sought out nonfiction books that could make durable, meaningful, and thought-provoking contributions to Canada and for Canadians. We are proud of the shortlist we are putting forward. Each book, in its own way, makes a valuable and timely contribution to this country's public discourse, and they all deserve to be widely read.

The Balsillie Prize for Public Policy can and should serve as a call to action to Canadian publishers, authors, policymakers, students, and readers that there is a real need and growing appetite for books that are unafraid to interrogate and scrutinize the issues that matter to the future of Canada. We look forward to seeing more being done to encourage eligible contributions from a wide diversity of writers and perspectives. This year's shortlist proves that Canadian public policy writing has much to say, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”


A jury composed of Samantha Nutt, Taki Sarantakis, and Scott Young read 69 titles submitted by 34 publishers.

About prize sponsor Jim Balsillie

Jim Balsillie is the former chairman and co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), a technology company he scaled from an idea to $20 billion in sales globally. His long-standing interest in and support of public policy initiatives in Canada include serving as an advisor to Canada School of Public Service, creating and funding the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the Arctic Research Foundation, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the Centre for Digital Rights, and the CIO Strategy Council. He was the private sector representative on the UN Secretary General’s High Panel for Sustainability. He is a member of the Board of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Advisory Board of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. His awards include: Mobile World Congress Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Business Hall of Fame, Time Magazine’s World’s 100 Most Influential People, and three times Barron’s list of “World’s Top CEOs.” Balsillie is also the sponsor of the Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.