Public Interest Research Groups were first organized in the United States in the 1970s. They have their roots in the philosophy (articulated by Ralph Nader and others) that active, participatory citizenship should be an integral part of postsecondary education. Over 200 PIRGs have been established in the United States, and over 20 organizations can be found on Canadian university campuses. PIRGs are student organizations based on the premise that students are citizens, and as such, part of their education should include recognizing and engaging the problems of society.

PIRGs exist to provide training, support, and opportunities for students to be active citizens in their communities. Through involvement with PIRGs, thousands of Canadian students have learned skills in consensus decision-making, group facilitation, events organizing, media relations, and community-based research. These skills help individuals to act effectively in the public interest.

LPIRG was founded in the fall of 2002 after students successfully organized a referendum campaign to create a Public Interest Research Group at the University of Lethbridge. LPIRG opened its doors and began funding student research and projects in the autumn of 2003. Since then LPIRG has been providing funding and support for student research, events, projects, and working groups. LPIRG is always open to new ideas, volunteers, and working group proposals.