The “PIRG” in VIPIRG stands for Public Interest Research Group. These are organizations that exist in communities across Canada and the United States.
The following is from Wikipedia’s page on Public Interest Research Groups.
“The first PIRG was a public interest law firm started by Ralph Nader in Washington, D.C. and was much different from the modern conception of PIRG. The State PIRGs emerged in the early 1970s on college campuses across the country. MPIRG (Minnesota) was the first state PIRG to incorporate (on February 17, 1971), and today is one of the few to remain independent from USPIRG and the Fund. Following the lead of Minnesota, students in Oregon (OSPIRG) and then Massachusetts (MASSPIRG), and finally many other states and Canadian provinces incorporated chapters of PIRG. The PIRGs are responsible for many of the Bottle Bills (container-deposit legislation) across the country. After students organized on college campuses for nearly 10 years, the different State PIRGs established the D.C. arm—U.S. PIRG—to advocate for change on the national level. Nearly simultaneously, the PIRGs founded the Fund For Public Interest Research (FFPIR), the fundraising and citizen outreach arm of the PIRGs”.
In Canada, in October 1972, the same US consumer advocate Ralph Nader gave a lecture about pollution and corporate irresponsibility at the University of Waterloo. Inspired by his vision of a network of organizations free from government or corporate control that would do research, advocacy, and education in the public interest, students at the University of Waterloo met a few days later to organize support for a student fee to establish the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG). There are now 21 PIRGs at universities across Canada.
In 1980, student organizers with BC PIRG began a drive to get PIRGs set up at campuses on the Lower Mainland. In a referendum held at UVic in March 1983, students approved a $5 levy for UVic to join SFU in BC PIRG.
Through the Canadian PIRGs, thousands of people have benefited from hands-on experience with community-based research, grassroots activism, advocacy and lobbying, and media work. As non-profit organizations, PIRGs provide an opportunity for students to gain experience working in the non-profit sector and to learn skills relating to consensus building, group facilitation, and governance.