A SWOT Analysis for your Partnership

A SWOT analysis &ndash of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats &ndash can help with strategic planning.

It can be taken on by your partnership's key personnel, business staff or community group members, or even those who you have worked with through your partnership or its programs.

A SWOT involves a mixture of brainstorming and partnership analysis – it encourages those involved in a partnership to have a good look at what they are doing, and to identify potential solutions to any issues that have arisen.

While a SWOT analysis by itself is not an answer to partnership questions, a method to capitalise on opportunities, or a cure to partnership problems, it is a good first step that can help identify issues and find ways to address problems or make the most of any opportunities.

SWOTting Up

Conducting a SWOT analysis isn't too hard – as long as you have prepared properly - and can either be targeted to a particular section of the partnership, or can involve representatives of as many parts of the partnership as you want.

But a good SWOT analysis does take time, so don't expect to have it completed within an hour. Take your time and work methodically through the process – this approach will produce the best results in the end.

Pre-SWOT preparation

  • Set aside a good amount of time for the task – anything from 2 hours to a whole day.
  • Tailor your analysis to your needs – you may need to invite everyone to take part in the analysis, or you may not.
  • Target key people inside partnership organisations, as well as any who may be outside the partnership but work with you on a regular basis.
  • Work with an outside facilitator if possible, or a person who is not directly involved with the partnership. At the very least, make sure the person chairing the analysis is staunchly objective. This ensures that if any uncomfortable issues arise, they will be dealt with properly.
  • If an outside facilitator is overseeing proceedings, ensure they are very well briefed on your partnership and all it does.
  • It is important that the comments come from both inside and outside your partnership, as the different viewpoints may result in different perceptions of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The SWOT analysis itself

  • Hand out individual pages to participants. Draw a square on each and divide it into 4 sections. Give each of the four sections one of the following titles: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
  • Draw a copy on a blackboard/whiteboard/piece of butcher's paper.
  • Begin by asking your group to consider the questions listed below from their own points of view and from the points of view of the people they deal with.
  • Have everybody fill in the list individually, and then fill them in on the blackboard/whiteboard/butcher's paper together.
  • Think about dividing those taking part into two groups and then comparing lists when they get back together. Emphasise that those taking part should brainstorm - there are no wrong answers, there are no stupid suggestions.

The Questions:

Strengths:
  • What are the advantages your partnership has?
  • What do you do well? (What do you boast about?)
Weaknesses:
  • What could be improved in your partnership?
  • What is done badly (or has been embarrassing to the partnership)?
  • What should be avoided?
  • What things should your partnership be doing that it can't?
Be willing to face criticism or tough calls about what you are doing.

Opportunities:
  • Where are the good choices facing your partnership?
  • What are the next steps?
  • What are the trends in your community that your partnership could be in a position to make the most of?
  • Are there new opportunities from the community, funding sources, grantmakers, industry or community group bodies that could help the partnership?
Useful opportunities can come from such things as changes in technology, changes in government policy, or changes in social patterns, population profiles, or lifestyle changes.

Threats:
  • What obstacles does your partnership face?
  • What is your competition doing, or planning to do?
  • What are your funding sources doing? Are there any trends?
  • Are the required specifications for your services changing?
  • What is the demand like for your services? Are your clients less satisfied or more satisfied? Do you need to re-target your partnership or its activities?
  • Do you have finance or cash-flow problems? Could you do a better job of approaching grants or fundraising opportunities?
  • Is partnership knowledge spread broadly, or would a gap be left if individuals moved on? Have you ensured you have "deputies" ready to step in to the breach?
(For more information on deputies, refer to the Passing the Baton and Finding and Appointing a Deputy for your Partnership Help Sheets at the Our Community website.)

Post SWOT discussion

  • At the end of the session, pull all the answers together.
    • Don't just take consensus as the correct response; leave enough time to discuss outlying answers and see if people agree with them. The aim of a SWOT analysis is to allow for change, not to reinforce what is currently happening.
  • Ask the group:
    • How can we use our strengths to take advantage of the opportunities?
    • How can we use our strengths to overcome the threats?
    • What do we need to do to overcome the weaknesses before we can take advantage of the opportunities?
    • How should we minimise our weaknesses to ward off the threats?

Important Note:

Remember, a SWOT analysis will not give your partnership a strategic plan or a timeline in which to complete certain tasks. Your SWOT needs to be turned into recommendations for your partnership's leadership to consider before they develop their next strategic or business plan.

More information on reviewing, changing and further analysing your partnership can be found in the following help sheets &ndash: