Kenan Institute Asia Kenan Institute Asia Leading provider of services for sustainable development in Asia.


Our History

Our History
  • Early Beginnings


    In 1901 Mary Lily Kenan married Henry M. Flagler, the co-founder and guiding force behind the great Standard Oil Company. The Kenan family had originally migrated from Ireland to North Carolina in 1730, where they became strong supporters of education, and helped to found The University of North Carolina. When Mary Lily Kenan died in 1917, she left the bulk of her fortune to her brother, William, who continued his family's legacy by creating the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, which laid a foundation for generations to come.

    A chance encounter in Arizona...



    The Grand Canyon

    • Image History One
    • Henry M. Flagler & Mary Lily Kenan
    • Image History Two
    • William R. Kenan
  • Early Beginnings


    The history of the Kenan Institute Asia dates back to a chance encounter during the 1920s, when King Prajadhipok of Thailand and Charles Grey, a member of the Kenan family, met in a gift shop in Arizona. The Kenan family has been active in Thailand ever since.

    • Image History One
    • King Prajadhipok (Rama Vii) Of Thailand” to “King Prajadhipok (Rama Vii) of Thailand
  • Origins: U.S. - Thailand Development Partnership


    Kenan's founding was a response to Thailand's incredible development as a market-based economy between 1970 and 1990. Rapid growth changed Thailand’s view of itself from an under- developed country in need of outside assistance to one not only capable of helping itself, but able to assist its neighbors as well. This view was strongly supported by key Thai technocrats involved in national economic and social development led by Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun.

    The director of the USAID mission in Thailand in 1990, Mr. Tom Reese, saw that Thailand's rapid development had created both opportunities for more market-based U.S. services and technology, as well as the need for solutions to problems created by such accelerated development. These problems included environmental pollution, uneven development, the emergence of new and re-emerging public health threats, such as HIV-AIDS and drug resistant malaria, and an inadequate education system.

    At the same time, Thailand’s rapid business growth and rising foreign investment sparked interest among American business schools, including the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. John Kasarda, the director of the school’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise (KIPE), was particularly interested in getting the university involved in the business boom in Asia and saw Thailand as an attractive place to start.

    A sustainable, non-profit organization to help with the next phase of development...


    Mr. Anand Panyarachun at The University Of North Carolina

    • Image History One
    • Mr. Anand Panyarachun
    • Image History Two
    • Mr. Tom Resse
    • Image History Three
    • Dr. John Kasarda
  • Origins: U.S. - Thailand Development Partnership


    USAID’s interest in leaving behind, as part of its legacy, a sustainable, non-profit organization to help with the next phase of development work led to the design of a USAID-funded project called the US- Thailand Development Partnership (US-TDP). KIPE, Chulalongkorn University, and the Brooker Group, a Thai consulting company, won the competitive bid for US-TDP and signed a cooperative agreement with USAID in December 1993 for a five-year program budgeted at $8 million. The main program objectives were to:

    • Demonstrate new, more private sector-oriented ways of assisting development through support for US-Thai partnerships; and
    • Develop an institutional arrangement that would provide ways to continue this sort of assistance after the closure of the USAID bilateral mission in Thailand.
    • Image History One
  • Establishing the Kenan Institute Asia


    Despite positive results, US Congressional budget pressure forced the earlier than expected closure of the USAID bi-lateral mission in Thailand in 1995 and the end of US-TDP in 1996. In its final days, the mission worked closely with UNC’s KIPE, the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust,and a group of Thai leaders to set up the Kenan Institute Asia as a Thai non-profit foundation to continue U.S.-Thai development cooperation. Key among these Thai leaders was Khun Anand, by then a business leader who had served two terms as prime minister, and Dr. Asavin Chintakananda, a business school professor, who worked behind the scenes to get Thai backing for the proposed institute. Due to their efforts, K.I.Asia was officially registered with Thai authorities on February 13, 1996 as an independent organization.

    It’s not the money; It’s the relationship that counts...

    Announcing The Formation Of The Kenan Institute Asia

    To provide the new foundation with reliable funding, an endowment was set up using the remaining funds from the US-TDP program and other unexpended monies intended for Thailand, including funds from the US-Asia Environmental Partnership (US-AEP). The willingness of the Thai government, through the Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation (now the Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency - TICA), to provide about one-third of the endowment was critical. The Thai government felt that the a development relationship with the United States was valuable in itself. As Khun Anand said at the time, “it’s not the money; it’s the relationship that counts.”

    The Kenan Charitable Trust, with important input from Mr. Dan Drake, provided private funds of some $3 million. The Senior Trustee of the Trust, Mr. Frank Kenan, said he was convinced that Kenan Institute Asia would become an important extension of the Kenan family’s efforts to help the private sector better serve society. His son, Mr. Owen Kenan, enthusiastically supported the funding of the institute and became one of the founding trustees. In honor of Mr. Owen Kenan, who passed away in 2002, Kenan Institute Asia held a series of annual conferences from 2002 to 2008 to draw attention to the ideas of sustainable development. KIPE, under Dr. Kasarda, provided key staff to the new Foundation, including Mr. Paul Wedel as executive director, and bridge funding of more than $500,000 for a total endowment of about $11 million.

      Anand Owen Chuan

    Members Of The New Kenan Board

    • Image History One
    • Bangkok, Thailand
    • Image History Two
    • Annoucing the formation of the Kenan Institute Asia
  • Establishing the Kenan Institute Asia


    Khun Anand agreed to serve as the founding chairman and helped recruit a high-level Thai and American board of trustees. Representing the two governments were Mr. William Itoh, the US Ambassador to Thailand, and Mr. Pichet Soontornpipit, director-general of Thailand’s Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation. Kenan began work along the lines set by the US-TDP - fostering Thai-US partnerships on projects that included recycling steel slag, producing low-cost HIV diagnostic kits, designing a waste water treatment plant, and generating electricity from landfill gas. Numerous training projects built capacity in public health, environmental management, municipal management and information technology.

    • Image History One
    • Mr. William Itoh
    • Image History Two
    • Mr. Pichet Soontornpipit
  • American Corporations for Thailand (ACT) & CSR


    Between 1998-2005, Kenan administered the American Corporations for Thailand (ACT), which was established as a corporate response to the 1997 financial crisis. Chairman Anand and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, raised US $1.7 million from US firms including Unocal and AIG, but ultimately came to include Motorola, Raytheon, GE, Union Carbide, Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical, and American Express. Khun Anand later said that “corporate support has been particularly important for the Institute because it substantiates our central premise that the most effective long-term development depends on an enlightened and well-balanced free- enterprise system.” Under ACT, Kenan designed and implemented more than 50 projects serving some 700 trainers and about 27,000 trainees, helping a high percentage of them to find new jobs. Key programs trained the unemployed in internal auditing, plant tissue culturing, computer graphics, plumbing, information technology, public health and small business management. “It’s extremely satisfying to see a program do what it sets out to do,” Dr. Kissinger said after reviewing the first year’s activities under ACT.

    It’s extremely satisfying to see a program do what it sets out to do...

    Former U.S. secretary of State Henry Kissinger with former prime minister Mr. Anand Panyarachun and ACT donors

    • Image History One
    • Computer Training for a Hill Tribe Woman as part of ACT
  • American Corporations for Thailand (ACT) & CSR

    By the end of the ACT project, it became clear that the Thai economy was recovering and corporations operating in Thailand were more interested in conducting corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities that more closely matched their business operations. Beginning in 2004, Kenan professionals started working more closely with corporate partners to design and manage company- branded, community-based programming. By 2011, Kenan had worked with corporate giants such as Citibank, Boeing, Microsoft and Merck. The programs with Citi help at-risk women to better manage their finances, train small company managers in financial management, and promote community savings groups. Kenan works with Boeing to introduce better teaching methods utilizing technology in the classroom. It collaborates with Microsoft to train the Thai labor force in IT and entrepreneurship and with MSD Thailand (Merck Pharmaceutical) to improve the way science education is taught in the classroom.

    • Image History One
    • Community Development As Part Of Act
  • Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia (AERA)


    Kenan Headquarters In Bangkok

    Shortly after the start of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the US government stepped in to contribute to the recovery of the region. In Thailand, Kenan staff worked with USAID to design the Thai portion of a regional program called “Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia” (AERA). Since the USAID mission in Thailand had been closed in 1996, USAID utilized Kenan as the mechanism to deliver and manage this assistance. In a departure from normal practice, the Thai and US governments set up a joint steering committee chaired by a private individual – Kenan’s Khun Anand. This ensured a good understanding of Thai development needs from both government and private perspectives, and established a spirit of U.S.-Thai and public-private cooperation that was a major aspect of the program. The cooperative agreement between USAID and Kenan provided a flexible and cost-effective means to channel funds to support development in the region. Initially funded at $10 million, total USAID funding for the project ultimately reached $23 million.

    A flexible and cost-effective means to channel funds to support development in the region...
  • Accelerating Economic Recovery in Asia (AERA)

    Over the decade of the program, Kenan implemented numerous projects under AERA. Some notable highlights include: • The Business Advisory Center under Dr. Saisawan Vadhanapanich, which brought in Thai MBAs to work with American volunteers from UNC’s MBA Enterprise Corps and more experienced consultants from the International Executive Service Corps, the Citizens for Development Corps and the Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteer Organization to conduct business consulting and training assistance to more than 300 small and medium-sized companies.

    • Customized banking training for some 2,000 managers in risk management, credit analysis and internal control at each of Thailand’s 17 banks.
    • The “Business Support Organizations Partnership” (BSOP) program, under the leadership of Mr. Richard Bernhard, which developed 30 US-Thai partnerships.The results included facilitating 25 policy, regulatory and systematic changes, training more than 7,000 people and distributing 20,000 training materials, and matching $1.47 million in USAID funds with over $1.5 million in contributions from the U.S. and Thai partners, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank.
    • The Thailand Competitiveness Initiative (TCI) to improve the competitiveness of 12 business clusters, five of them intensively, including the Western Provinces High-Value Agricultural Produce Sector, the Chiang Mai Tourism Cluster, the Bangkok Digital Content Cluster, the Chantaburi Gem Cluster, and the Cambodia Fish Cluster.
    • The Border Action Against Malaria (later Microbes) or BAAM project, which worked closely with the Thai Ministry of Public Health in Thailand to establish a sentinel surveillance system that proved particularly valuable in enabling evidence-based modification of treatment protocols in response to increasing drug resistance by the malaria parasite. This contributed significantly to Thailand’s success in cutting the incidence of malaria by 50% and reducing mortality by 74%.
    • Image History One
    • Dr. Saisawan Vadhanapanich & Dr. Montri Chulavatnatol Inspect A Factory
    • Image History Two
    • Signing The Aera Agreement
    • Image History Three
    • A Thai Health Worker Surveys Cambodian Migrant Workers
  • Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative (TRAI)


    U.S. Ambassador Eric G. John, Govenor Wichai of Phang-nga, & Kenan’s Paul Wedel

    On the day after Christmas 2004, a massive tsunami, caused by an undersea earthquake, struck coastal communities around the Indian Ocean, including the west coast of southern Thailand. In Thailand alone, more than 10,000 people were killed and thousands more injured. In addition to the initial suffering, the tsunami also destroyed thousands of fishing boats and hundreds of resorts, damaging the livelihoods of all of the people in the area. Soon after the rescue and relief efforts got underway, it became clear that the area would need longer term assistance to plan and implement a sustainable recovery.

    To assist local people in the hardest hit province – Phang-nga – with both recovery and planning for the future, Kenan developed the Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative (TRAI). With strong support from the key leaders of the Kenan Charitable Trust, Mr. Tom Kenan and Dr. Richard Krasno, as well as Dr. Kasarda at KIPE, the two organizations responded with $1.2 million in funding for TRAI. This funding provided for important recovery actions as well as for proposals that ultimately brought in additional funds from the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Relief Fund, MSD (Thailand), Microsoft, the European Commission and the UN World Tourism Organization for total funding of $3.5 million for the five-year program.

    To assist local people in the hardest hit province – Phang-nga – with both recovery and planning for the future, Kenan developed the Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative (TRAI). With strong support from the key leaders of the Kenan Charitable Trust, Mr. Tom Kenan and Dr. Richard Krasno, as well as Dr. Kasarda at KIPE, the two organizations responded with $1.2 million in funding for TRAI. This funding provided for important recovery actions as well as for proposals that ultimately brought in additional funds from the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Relief Fund, MSD (Thailand), Microsoft, the European Commission and the UN World Tourism Organization for total funding of $3.5 million for the five-year program.

    Over the course of five years, nearly 5,000 people participated directly in the TRAI program. Kenan taught key business, planning and marketing skills to nearly 700 trainers. The TRAI team produced 69 publications - studies, plans, brochures, guidebooks, newsletters and a video. The long- tail boat repair center and pier have helped improve the livelihood of local fisher folk and community members alike.

  • Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative (TRAI)

    Key activities included:

    • Partnering with the Phang-nga Tourism Association (PNTA), local government, community groups and schools. Kenan trained communities to develop a vision, strategy, and plan for sustainable community tourism.
    • Winning funds from the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Relief Fund to build a repair facility for small fishing vessels, as well as an access road, a pier, and a community open area to help local fisher folk to rebuild their livelihoods.
    • Initiating the “Community Based-Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative” with EU funding, to provide 14 community groups, with entrepreneurship training, microfinance and capacity-building, marketing training, and research in support of community-based products and services.
    • Image History One
    • Mr. Richard Bernhard at The Phang-nga Pier Opening Ceremony
    • Image History Two
    • Mr. Tom Kenan Visits a TRAI Project
  • Regional Operations and Growth


    Although Kenan’s main activities between 1999-2009 were focused on Thailand under the AERA project, Kenan has long had the strategic intent to help neighboring countries, especially Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam, benefit from Thailand’s development experience. By 2009, Kenan was conducting an increasing number of project activities in the region.

    Kenan’s first project in the region introduced North Carolina environmental technologies to Vietnam beginning in 1999. Subsequently, activities under the AERA program were expanded regionally, including SME capacity building in Vietnam, development of Vietnam’s IT cluster, capacity building for judges in Vietnam, and exporting packaged foods by ASEAN SMEs. More recently, Kenan was funded by the New Zealand AID to plan for sustainable tourism in Laos, by the United Nations Development Programme to develop CSR curriculum in Vietnam, by the United Nations Democracy Fund to build the capacity of Lao civil society organizations, by TICA to train Lao government officials in project cycle management, and ASEAN research projects on patent offices and regional SME financing.

    • Image History One
    • Embedding CSR In Vietnam
  • Regional Operations and Growth


    Opening Ceremony At Kenan’s Vietnam Office

    A foundation for Kenan’s growing presence in Vietnam...

    In 2014, Kenan deepened its relationship with Vietnam by opening an office in Hanoi that will serve as foundation for Kenan’s growing presence in the country. As Vietnam rapidly expands to become a middle-income country that rivals Thailand, Kenan will leverage its knowledge, skills, and capacities to ensure that such development is sustainable.


Former Chairmen and Presidents

Mr. Anand Panyarachun

Kenan Founding and Honorary Chairman (1995-2005) Former Prime Minister of Thailand

Ambassador Nitya Pibulsonggram

Kenan Chairman (2005-2006, 2008-2014, Vice-Chairman 2002-2005) Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand

Mr. Sivaporn Dardarananda

Director and Secretary-General

Elephant Reintroduction Foundation

Dr. Asavin Chintakananda

Kenan President (2000-2001)

Dr. Montri Chulavatnatol

Kenan President (2001-2003) Professor Emeritus and Advisor, Faculty of Science Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

Mr. Paul Wedel

Kenan President (2004-2010, Executive Director 1996-2012)