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True Blue

Launching Leaders 


Chet Harmer at his desk.
Chet Harmer spends 30 hours a week on Zoom developing future Church and business leaders in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Photo by Bradley Slade.

“I am a new person,” says Bienvenu Dansou of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. An introvert, he found he needed extra help in steering his personal and professional life. He found it in Launching Leaders, a personal-development program under the auspices of the BYU Management Society that helps learners around the world make goals, find mentors, and integrate their faith and core values into their personal and workaday lives. “I treasure what I’ve learned and have it pasted in my bedroom,” Dansou says. “I’ve gained so much more confidence and spirituality.” 

Dansou took the course from “Brother Chet.” Chet Harmer (BS ’66, MAcc ’67), the former worldwide president of the Management Society (MS), spends about 30 hours a week remotely facilitating the Launching Leaders course with learners in Africa and Asia. Harmer reports to the Africa regional MS director, Seth Ogoe Ayim (MPA ’16) of Ghana, and Asia regional director Anita L. Hummel (BA ’84) of Vietnam. 

The MS course is being expanded in Africa and Asia. It is intended to scale. In West Africa, some of its recent grads may become trainers themselves at newly approved gathering places being set up with computers and Wi-Fi in 180-plus stakes and districts. 

The goal of the program is to increase each individual’s capabilities and, ultimately, when used with self-reliance programs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, help members earn a “Church living wage”—or the amount needed to support a family and have enough time and means to allow service and leadership in the Church. 

“I’ve gained . . . more confidence and spirituality.” 

-Bienvenu Dansou

Launching Leaders connects with other efforts to build skills and leadership, such as the Skep Foundation. (A skep is a kind of beehive, and the symbol suggests industry.) Created by V. Scot (BS ’80) and Jeralie Lloyd Hymas (BS ’80) following their mission to West Africa, the foundation has identified six certification programs (such as medical coding) in which African people are virtually trained before being connected with global companies. But first Skep has its participants complete the five-week Launching Leaders program. 

The course requires three hours a week—two in preparation and one in class—for a total of 15 hours. Harmer tested a version of the course in Brazil during COVID, when MS chapters were largely shut down. Zoom allowed attendees from all over Brazil to participate. Only weeks into the course, attendees told him, “This has changed our lives.” The course has been trans-lated into Portuguese, and hundreds of people complete it each year in Portuguese-speaking countries. It will be piloted in Church institutes in Brazil and the Philippines in 2023. 

“The course in Africa and Asia is also now a building block to either starting or rejuvenating MS chapters,” Harmer says. In Taiwan, for example, the MS chapter president got behind it, and now the course is drawing 500–600 participants each year. 

But, as Harmer always says, the real growth is seen in individual lives. 

“After I find a job,” says Sandra Wokurum of Accra, Ghana, “I should impact people’s lives and encourage others with whatever opportunities Heavenly Father blesses me with, because that is the true meaning of success.” By Andrew T. Bay (BA ’91, MA ’94)