The SWOT analysis is a classic strategic planning tool originating from business and marketing analysis that encourages groups (or individuals) to reflect on and assess the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a particular strategy and how it can best be implemented.
The SWOT framework - a two-by-two matrix - is best completed in a group with key members of the team or organisation present. First it is important to be clear what the objective is, and what team or organisation the analysis is being carried out on. Once these are clarified and agreed, begin with a brainstorm of ideas, and then hone them down and clarify them afterwards in discussion.
Strengths and Weaknesses describe ‘where the project or organisation is now: the existing resources that can be used immediately and current problems that won't go away. It can help identify where new resources, skills or allies will be needed’ (Start and Hovland 2004). Both refer to ‘technical, financial, promotional, networking, knowledge’ (BDS Business Development Services Forum) or competency based factors internal to the programme. ‘When thinking of strengths it is useful to think of real examples of success to ground and clarify the conversation’ (Start and Hovland 2004). Strengths are ‘those things that are working well in a project or situation. The aspects people are proud to talk about’ (IFAD) and which differentiate the program from others. Weaknesses are ‘those things that have not worked well’ or that the program is less efficient in than others.
Opportunities and Threats describe ‘what is going on outside the organisation, or areas which are not yet affecting the strategy but could do’ (Start and Hovland 2004). Opportunities include ‘ideas on how to overcome weaknesses and build on strengths’ (IFAD) within the environment the program operates in. Threats are ‘things that constrain or threaten the range of opportunities for change’ in the programme environment. These external aspects are often related to ‘sociological, political, demographic, economic, trade-specific’ and environmental factors (BDS).
Example of SWOT analysis for small NGO
The following example is an excerpt from Start, D. and Hovland, I. (2004) p.2
- We are able to follow-up on this research as the current small amount of work means we have plenty of time
- Our lead researcher has strong reputation within the policy community
- Our organisation's director has good links to the Ministry
- Our organisation has little reputation in other parts of government
- We have a small staff with a shallow skills base in many areas
- We are vulnerable to vital staff being sick, leaving, etc
- We are working on a topical issue
- The government claims to want to listen to the voice of local NGOs
- Other NGOs from our region will support us
- Will the report be too politically sensitive and threaten funding from sponsors?
- There is a pool of counter-evidence that could be used to discredit our research and therefore our organisation.
The NGO might therefore decide, amongst other things, to target the report to specific patrons in the one ministry, use their lead researcher to bring credibility to the findings and work on building up a regional coalition on the issue.
Advice for CHOOSING this option (tips and traps)
- ‘A SWOT analysis can reveal hidden obstacles to a planned project, especially when participants come from different departments or geographical areas in the same organization. In the same way, SWOT can identify positive elements that may not be readily evident. Used properly, SWOT can generate valuable data quickly and be an example of "strength in numbers"’ (Impact Alliance).
- SWOT is usually a ‘snap shot’ tool that is used in a one-off scenario to reflect on a subject from all angles; it is rarely repeated over time, even though this might be a possible variation. If this variation is used, consider how you will make change visible across two or more SWOTs.
Advice for USING this option (tips and traps)
Guides and Examples
- Context Assessment: SWOT Analysis - ODI Overseas Development Institute offers a detailed outline of the process and an example to illustrate
- Options for Monitoring and Evaluation - This annex provided by IFAD, International Fund for Agricultural Development summarises 34 options useful for specific M&E tasks. Please refer to page 20 regarding option 14, SWOT.
- User's Guide for SWOT Analysis - This guide defines SWOT, what it can be used for and provides two examples on how to cunduct a SWOT analysis
- Monitoring & Evaluation for Projects and Partner Organizations - BDS Business Development Services Forum, a complete manual for SWOT Analysis
Business Development Services (BDS) Forum, ‘Complete manual for SWOT analysis’, https://web.archive.org/web/20100317123000/http://www.bds-forum.net/m+e.htm (archive link - accessed 16 December 2010)
IFAD, ‘Options for Monitoring and Evaluation, Annex D’, page D 21, http://www.ifad.org/evaluation/guide/annexd/Annex_D-3DEF.pdf (accessed 16 December 2010)
Impact Alliance, User’s Guide for SWOT Analysis, http://www.impactalliance.org/file_download.php?location=S_U&filename=10227014460SWOT_Guide.pdf (accessed 16 December 2010)
Start, D. and Hovland, I. (2004): SWOT Analysis, Tools for Policy Impact: A Handbook for Researchers, Overseas Development Institute,http://www.odi.org.uk/rapid/tools/toolkits/Policy_Impact/SWOT_analysis.html (accessed 21 December 2010)