Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Salvation Army, Otago University team up to strengthen social services

Students at Orientation

Thursday 22 September 2011 11:18am

At a time when many New Zealanders are increasingly turning to the Salvation Army for help in their lives, the Army has turned to the University of Otago to ensure their social services are based on the best possible national and international research.

On the morning of Friday, 23 September, the University and The Salvation Army will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will see some of Otago’s leading academics team up with the faith-based social services agency to evaluate current Salvation Army social programmes, provide rigorous international research-based evidence for those programmes, and help inform the policy debate around social deprivation, alcohol and gambling, mental health and family violence.

“This is a very exciting new partnership with a highly-regarded social services organisation with a long tradition of providing compassionate care in our communities,” says Professor Helen Nicholson, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise. “It opens up the possibility of research and social policy work which will benefit not just both parties but our society as a whole. The agreement also helps fulfil the University’s strategic vision of engaging with nongovernmental agencies that have a clear community focus.”

Joining Professor Nicholson at the signing ceremony and providing the opening address and prayer will be Commissioner Don Bell, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory.

Commissioner Bell says the University of Otago was chosen because of the “independence and research prowess of its professorial, research and academic staff,” and because its achievement in the areas of social, health and theological research aligned closely with the work of The Salvation Army’s Social Programme Department.

“It’s a great fit for us, particularly as the University’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues was able to provide the faith-based focus to the evaluation of our programmes that we were seeking. The Salvation Army’s programmes embrace a holistic approach to well-being – to provide for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the individual and the community.”

Otago, he says, also has significant international research connections and relationships in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, United States of America, Canada, Australia, and the Pacific Islands – all places where The Salvation Army is currently providing social services and where further research collaborations could help shape future programme developments.

Professor Andrew Bradstock of Otago’s Centre for Theology and Public Issues, is clearly delighted by the prospect of working more closely with The Salvation Army on a broad range of social policy research.

He says “the Army does such a hugely impressive job on the ground” in terms of addressing the causes and effects of poverty and hardship, unemployment, poor housing, drug and alcohol abuse, gang issues, family violence and other issues, but that these programmes also need to be professionally evaluated and based on sound academic research.

“So it's a great partnership, which will benefit many individuals, families and communities here in NZ - which is why I think people at large should know about it and celebrate it! There is also a strong 'spiritual' focus and concern at the heart of all that the Salvation Army does, and I will be keen to see the Centre for Theology and Public Issues offer its services in any way we can to the partnership in terms of strengthening, underpinning and affirming that dimension of the Salvation Army’s work.”

The Salvation Army has also liaised with other University research centres and groups including Professor Kevin Clements of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

However, The Salvation Army’s highest priority is the professional evaluation of its drugs and alcohol addiction treatment (‘Bridge’), followed by an evaluation of its Positive Lifestyle programme and a peer review of the Hauora programme.

As a result of the MOU, a steering group will be set up to bring together the two parties at regular intervals to manage the relationship at a strategic level as well as identify future potential joint research projects.

For more information, contact

Professor Helen Nicholson
Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise
Tel 64 3 479 8835

Lt Colonel Lyndon Buckingham, Secretary for Programme
The Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters
New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory
Mob 64 27 228 4742

Professor Andrew Bradstock
Howard Paterson Professor of Theology and Public Issues
Centre for Theology and Public Issues
Tel 64 3 479 8450

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

Electronic addresses (including email accounts, instant messaging services, or telephone accounts) published on this page are for the sole purpose of contact with the individuals concerned, in their capacity as officers, employees or students of the University of Otago, or their respective organisation. Publication of any such electronic address is not to be taken as consent to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages by the address holder.