The Dutch arm of the Salvation Army can be called a success, according to Petra Ophoff, who observed the daily workings of 3 regional chapters and interviewed staff and management there. Working under the supervision of SPG-team member Stefanie Beyens, Ophoff wrote a Research Master thesis in which she elaborated on andapplied Goodsell’s “Mission Mystique” framework. Method-wise, Ophoff was inspired by ethnographic methods, leading her to opt for a participatory observation approach. This was not the easiest way to go about this. The clients of the organisation are people who, because of the complex nature of their problems (e.g. simultaneously struggling with addiction, mental health issues, homelessness), fall between the cracks of the traditional Dutch welfare state. This is recognised and the organisation receives state funding. Surveys show that the Salvation Army is a strong, trusted brand in the Dutch charity sector. However, the uniqueness of its task and its stellar reputation are too superficial to classify the organisation as a success. A proper assessment needs a careful and profound analysis. This is exactly what Ophoff’s thesis offers. Her findings show the importance of the Salvation Army’s mission and how the other characteristics of Goodsell’s framework (e.g. reputation) are infused with it. The careful and reflective way in which Ophoff approached staff and clients of the organisation was exceptional, resulting in a fascinating piece of research.
Petra Ophoff was generous enough to allow us to publish her work here. We thank her for that and invite you to read it.