SWOT Analysis

Definition: SWOT analysis is a method traditionally used in the business realm for identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats impacting commercial ventures. The SWOT analysis provides a systematic approach for analyzing options, prioritizing actions, making decisions, and focusing efforts for the greatest impact. Strengths and weaknesses assess the internal and direct factors impacting a community, while opportunities and threats assess the factors that lie outside of the control of the community and local leaders but that can impact community development efforts. (Phillips and Pittman, p. 149-150) Apply: SWOT analysis can be used by community organizers and developers to assess the situation of a community in order to make informed decisions and prioritize actions with respect to community development. The SWOT analysis allows for the assessment of the internal strengths and weaknesses of a community with respect to physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, economic development infrastructure, and human infrastructure (as defined by Phillips and Pittman). Additionally, the SWOT analysis assesses external opportunities and threats, such as businesses in the area that may provide job opportunities or housing developments which may threaten to raise property taxes in the neighborhood. A SWOT analysis can therefore help community developers to determine the strengths on which to build, the weaknesses to avoid or overcome, and the external positive and negative factors that may enable or impede community development efforts. Adapt: SWOT analysis can be used in international humanitarian work to assess the location of particular countries with respect to their ability to receive humanitarian aid. The strengths and weaknesses would identify the ability or inability of an organization to provide humanitarian assistance to a particular country (i.e. staff who are familiar with the country and can speak the language, donors and other funding opportunities (or lack thereof)). The opportunities and threats portion of the analysis would assess the external possibilities or barriers to providing humanitarian assistance to the country (i.e. geographic location, ports of entry, ease or difficulty of getting shipments through customs, etc).

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  1. Application: In addition to the possibilities Dina mentioned, community developers can use SWOT analyses to address less quantitative measures. SWOT analysis should also include relationships, who do community members or developers know, who do they need to get to know, are there relationships that are tense and could be a hindrance, etc.

    SWOT analyses can be great participatory planning technique. Instead of developers themselves conducting them, SWOT analyses can be done with focus groups of community residents. There will inevitably be items in each category that different groups will think of, that others would miss. SWOT analyses can also be done for any kind of organization. They are a great reflection tool and opportunity for an organization to sit down and really lay out how things are going and what direction to continue in.