SWOT (Strenghts, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats)

SUMMARY

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Why is this tool used in evaluation?

SWOT analysis (Strengths - Weaknesses - Opportunities - Threats) is a strategy analysis tool. It combines the study of the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation, a geographical area, or a sector, with the study of the opportunities and threats to their environment. As such, it is instrumental in development strategy formulation.

Figure 1: Rationale of SWOT analysis

 

Positive aspect

Negative aspect

Internal factors

Strengths

Weaknesses

External factors

Opportunities

Threats

The aim of the analysis is to take into account internal and external factors, maximising the potential of strengths and opportunities, while minimising the impact of weaknesses and threats.

SWOT analysis is usually prepared through meetings with the stakeholders or experts concerned with the strategy.

What use can be made of SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis can be used to identify possible strategic approaches. Although originally designed for planning, this tool is used in evaluation to ensure that the implemented strategy is appropriate to the situation described in the analysis. Thus, it may either be used for:

  • Ex ante evaluations, in order to determine or check strategic approaches (such as in the drafting or evaluation of Country Strategy Programmes)
  • Intermediary evaluations, in order to check the relevance of the programmes under evaluation, and if required, their coherence
  • Ex post evaluations, in order to check the relevance and coherence of the strategy or the programme. Especially if this task was not undertaken during the development of the strategy or the programme

How is a swot analysis carried out?

Figure 2: Steps involved in SWOT analysis

What are the tool's conditions for use?

The prerequisites for its use in country evaluations almost exclusively relate to the selection of the participants.

Figure 3: Issues to address during the selection of the participants

How is the level of analysis chosen?

  • If the focus of the analysis is the agency (for example, the European Commission), the object of the internal analysis is the agency, while the object of the external analysis is the country.
  • If the main object of the analysis is the country, the internal analysis focuses on the country while the external analysis focuses on neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.
  • If the object of the analysis is a sector, every action carried out in this sector constitutes an internal factor, and the rest represent external factors.

How should the sessions be prepared?

Whatever the methodology, the preparation of meetings should include, as a minimum, documentary analysis and interviews with key resource people.

Planning how to select the group, its size and its possible division into subgroups (thematic, regional, types of actors, etc.) are also crucial at this stage.

How are the 4 components selected and studied?

The sequence, and the way to determine and study the 4 components (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), may greatly differ. 

Study of the strengths

Strengths are positive internal factors that are controlled by the organisation, or the country, and which provide foundations for the future. 

Study of the weaknesses

In contrast to the strengths, weaknesses are negative internal elements, which are controlled by the organisation, and for which key improvements can be made. 

As SWOT analysis is based on the participants' judgements, it is subjective and qualitative by nature. If the study of the strengths and weaknesses needs to be developed, 2 complementary tools can be used: resources audit and analysis of best practice (comparison within a country between what works and what is lacking, with respect to specific indicators).

Study of the opportunities

Opportunities are the external positive possibilities which can be taken advantage of in the context of contemporary strengths and weaknesses. They are often beyond the influence of a country, or at the margins (for example, the evolution of international consumers' taste concerning one of the country's commodities, the improvement of the economy in a "client" country, the increase of Internet trade). 

Study of the threats

Threats are difficulties, impediments, or external limitations which can prevent or impede the development of a country, or a sector (for example, the industry). Threats are often beyond the influence of a country, or at its margin (for example, consumers avoiding national products which are economically important for the country, large increases in energy prices, general decrease in the development assistance).

Figure 4: Example of the EuropeAid evaluation in Tanzania in 2005. SWOT table designed with the European Commission's strategic documents, 2002. Politics and civil society
Strengths Weaknesses
  • Stable political power which protects Tanzania from the numerous conflicts of its neighbour countries. Tanzania plays a leading role in conflict prevention and regional co-operation.
  • Ratification of the main Human Rights international agreements.
  • Numerous trade unions, cooperatives, women and youth associations, ethnic assistance associations and religious organisations.
  • Recent transition towards a multi party, democratic and decentralised political system after 30 years of a socialist, single party and very centralised system.
  • Irregularities during the local elections in Zanzibar in 2000.
  • Widespread corruption.
  • NGOs weaknesses in their legal, financial and human resources.
Opportunities Threats
  • Partnership with the African East Community in various fields.
  • Meeting point of one of the largest refugee population of Africa (more than 500 000), which constitutes a threat to the local population.

How can the swot components be combined to develop a synthesis?

This stage focuses on strategies to maximise the use of information. 

During this stage, the evaluator should systematically study all 10 possibilities presented in this chart, from information provided by the SWOT analysis. This task should ideally be carried out with groups during the sessions.

Figure 5: Connection between SWOT's components

 

What are the preconditions for its use?

Figure 6: the preconditions for its use
The time span
  • A few days' preparation, one day to gather participants and one day to complete the analysis when the analysis is conducted with a limited number of participants. 
  • Its time span may increase significantly if the analysis has to be more detailed.
Human resources
  • The participants 
  • A group moderator or a skilled moderator
Financial resources
  • A straightforward analysis is cost-effective. 
  • A specific study during an ex ante evaluation, carried out to support the determination of strategic decisions, is expensive, especially if it includes travel to the country and several sessions.

What are the advantages and limitations of the tool?

Figure 7: The advantages and limitations of the tool
Advantages
  • It quickly underlines the adequacy (or inadequacy) of a strategy, in relation to the problems and issues under consideration. 
  • In evaluation ex ante, it supports decision-making and the incorporation of the strategic approaches within the evaluation.
Limitations
  • Even when the tool is well conceived, it remains subjective. Consensus should be found prior to the analysis completion. 
  • Distinguishing between internal and external factors may sometimes be challenging. 
  • Similar to all tools that result in a matrix, SWOT analysis is reputed to be simplistic in approach.

Author

FC
Former Capacity4dev Member
last update
7 December 2022

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