International Programs

Supporting justice, dialog, and inclusive leadership through Civil Society partnerships

The McConnell Foundation funds projects in Nepal and Laos in the areas of peacebuilding, access to justice, and conservation.  We take a decade-long approach with our grant partners, accompanying them as they refine strategic and responsive solutions.

The McConnell Foundation’s international programs contribute to global Sustainable Development Goals 5: Gender Equity, 15: Life on Land, and 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

The Development Story

Humanity United produced this 15-minute interview on The McConnell Foundation’s international programs in 2016.  Learn about our development and philosophy with this interview of former CEO and President, Lee Salter, and Chief Operations Officer, Shannon Phillips.

Support for long-term peace and conflict transformation efforts.


Leadership development and social empowerment for rural women.

Developing legal aid mechanisms and strengthening community mediation


Engaging communities in integrated water resource management


Small grants to CSOs supporting biodiversity


Raising awareness of the stories and cultures of our Redding-area refugees of the Secret War in Laos


Life story telling and dialog opportunities to foster learning and strengthen community relationships

Study Abroad!

The McConnell Foundation Study Abroad in Laos Fellowship: 2017.

The McConnell Foundation is sponsoring a delegation from Shasta County to participate in the 2017 Summer Study Abroad in Laos (SAIL) program, a five-week cultural emersion study program hosted by the Lao-American College in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

The SAIL program is offered annually by the Center for Lao Studies, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco.  The McConnell Foundation is offering sponsorship for a select number of youth applicants from Shasta County in order to:

  • Increase our local community’s awareness of the diverse cultures of peoples from Laos;
  • Provide a mechanism for descendants of refugees from Laos to learn their heritage and the stories of their elders;
  • And to help preserve the language and culture of the Lao diaspora and minority ethnic groups of Laos.
Group photo in front of statues
People working in rice fields

Selected Fellows will receive full scholarship for the SAIL program tuition and a stipend for travel expenses.

This Fellowship is targeting heritage students – descendants of refugees from Laos – but anyone with passion and commitment to learn Lao language, history, and culture, is encouraged to apply.

Qualifying applicants must:

  • Be of or between the ages of 16 – 22
  • Be a resident of Shasta County (those living elsewhere but whose parents live in Shasta County are eligible)
  • Submit your application before the deadline of February 27th

Embark in the life changing experience of cultural immersion in Laos!

Group photo


Visit the Center for Lao Studies SAIL program site for more details on the 5-week cultural immersion program HERE.

Visit Laos Vicariously…

Through the interviews, videos, and personal blogs of The McConnell Foundation Study Abroad in Laos (SAIL) Fellows who participated in the 2016 Center for Lao Studies program.

Enjoy these videos and scroll down to the Blog section to see the participant’s writings about their experience
Redding citizens interviewed on their experience as refugees of the Secret War in Laos
Veterans of the Secret War in Laos receive official recognition and thanks for their service at the Redding 2017 Memorial Day service
News in Laos Parody Video Produced by 2016 SAIL Students
 Enjoy Radio KLXR 1230 AM Radio Interview produced by Lynn Fritz


“The McConnell peacebuilding program in Nepal promotes a peace culture built on respect for diversity, rights, and nonviolent response to conflict. The Foundation supports innovative and inclusive peacebuilding activities that increase dialogue and participation at all levels of Nepali society.”

The Foundation’s international grantmaking program was initiated in Nepal in 1999 and initially invested in projects related to rural development, community schools, and countering domestic violence. As an internal insurgency gained strength across Nepal in 2003, the Foundation’s focus shifted from development initiatives to supporting long-term peace and conflict transformation efforts. The Foundation committed to a decade-long peacebuilding program guided by a volunteer steering committee of Nepali citizens and peacebuilders which informed the following McConnell Foundation funded projects:

A Decade of Peacebuilding

MJohn Paul Lederach’s new book chronicles a decade of peacebuilding work with The McConnell Foundation in Nepal.


Reflections from a seasoned peacebuilder on a decade engagement with nonviolent social change in Nepal as the country navigated war and peace. Lederach, well known for his practical and theoretical contributions to the fields of peace studies and conflict transformation, opens up toward a personal exploration of his accompaniment of philanthropy and system’s change with local Nepali communities focused on natural resource conflicts, rural women’s empowerment, and community mediation. Written as a memoir, the book follows the story of The McConnell Foundation’s decade pledge to peacebuilding in Nepal that began in the midst of a civil war.


Mar. 18, 2013; Prof. John Paul Lederach teaching Kroc Institute graduate students...Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre DameThe author walks through key decision points faced by emergent philanthropy and provides an overview of the insights into a system’s approach to social change using primarily methods of sustained participatory action research. Among the few international theorists and practitioners with access to deep community processes and national political dialogue, Lederach provides insight into the dilemmas and lessons from sustained peacebuilding engagement. The Memoir comes to life with photography, biographical profiles and stories of local colleagues addressing the deep and pressing issues of social conflict.

This book is available in a beautiful hardcover, paperback, or e-reader format.  Follow this link to preview the book and purchase a copy of your own.  It is powerful inspiration for the peacebuilder, traveler, and humanitarian in every person.

Nepal Projects

Natural Resource Conflict Transformation Project
Rural Women’s Leadership Development Project
Building the Network of Women Journalists in Nepal
WWJ logo
Community Mediation Project
The Asia Foundation logo
Nepal nature scenery

Community Mediation (CM)

The McConnell Foundation partnered with The Asia Foundation for a powerful 10-year  (2003 – 2013) iterative development and growth process of establishing quality community mediation in Nepal, providing timely, affordable, and easily accessible interpersonal dispute resolution services.  This is now integrated in the national justice system as a ratified alternative dispute mechanism with over 30,000 certified mediators.

Person in Nepal

Rural Women’s Leadership Development Center of Nepal

Mahila Shakti Bikash Kendra Nepal (MSBKN)

MSBKN was founded to address the social isolation and vulnerability of rural women and widows after the end of the civil war in 2006, to help include them in leadership and decision-making efforts that impact their lives. The McConnell Foundation began funding MSBKN in 2003 to promote women’s leadership and representation in public institutions in rural Nepal.

People in Nepal sitting in circle

Natural Resource Conflict Transformation Center-Nepal (NRCTC-N)

The Conflict Transformation Center supports communities through a dialog process to transform community conflicts around access to land, water, and forest resources.  NRCTC-N has successfully transformed over 110 community conflicts, most of which had been tormenting citizens for 10 – 30 years each.  The process focuses on improving relationships between the groups in conflict for a sustainable peace.

Person holding book

Memoirs of Nepal, Reflections Across a Decade
by John Paul Lederach

Reflections from a seasoned peacebuilder on nonviolent social change in Nepal, this engaging and personal book chronicles John Paul Lederach’s engagement with The McConnell Foundation’s peacebuilding program in Nepal from 2002 – 2013.  The book is full of gems for anyone aspiring to made positive change and offers a deep view of some of the challenges and change makers in Nepal.


The Foundation’s board of directors decided to expand the international program to an additional country in 2006.  After in-depth exploration, the decision was made to fund in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The McConnell Foundation is working on three principal issues: developing legal aid, water quality management, and preserving biodiversity.

Laos Projects

Doorway surrounded by signs

Access to Justice

The Access to Justice project has partnered with The Asia Foundation, Lao Ministry of Justice, and the NUoL Faculty of Law, and the Lao Bar Association since 2006.  This project supports the development of a legal aid system, strengthening village mediation services, and awareness raising of rights and laws in rural communities. The first national Legal Aid Decree was issued in Laos in November of 2017.

People around a table eating

Community-based River Basin Management Project (CRBM)

The River Basin Management project, conducted by The Asia Foundation and the Provincial Office of Natural Resources and Environment in Khammouane Province, enables communities to take a more active and informed role in managing local water resources. Activities improve wetland health, improve waste management, reduce agro-chemical use, and mitigate flooding through green infrastructure and nature-based solutions.

Person standing next to sign

Lao Ecology Small Grant Program

The McConnell Foundation is partnering with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to offer small grants to Lao organizations working on environmental conservation. This program bolsters the civil society sector providing local responses to biodiversity conservation in Laos. Eligible organizations are encouraged to apply through IUCN.


 Lower Mekong Regional Partnerships

The McConnell Foundation values collaboration and coordination and it is important to us to seek out peers in the Mekong region as we continue our philanthropy in Lao PDR. We joined the informal peer group, the Lower Mekong Funders Collaborative, in 2016 and began participating in the newly formed Lower Mekong Network.  Both networks have been fruitful for supporting trust-based collaboration, knowledge sharing, and increased impact.

Note to Colleagues and Grantseekers

The McConnell Foundation does not accept applications for international grants. However, we appreciate collegial exchanges of knowledge, lessons learned, and being appraised of the work others are doing in our fields of interest. If you are working in Nepal or Laos and have an interest in communicating with us, please contact Jesica Rhone at (530) 226-6223 or by using the email contact form.


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