SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis


The SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool used to identify a community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Tool Description

A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It can be very effective for scanning the environment when used as an initial tool in planning.

Strengths and weaknesses are usually considered to be “internal factors”—characteristics of the community and planning group. Opportunities and threats are often considered to be “external factors”—circumstances that affect the outcome of the planning process that are not under the direct control of the community or planners.

A SWOT analysis helps organize subjective and objective information for review and this information can provide a foundation for decision making that takes into consideration the competitive environment, opportunities that can be exploited, and strengths that will enhance success.

The SWOT framework is very basic—it simply involves filling in answers to the four major questions:

  • What are the community’s major strengths?
  • What are the community’s major weaknesses?
  • What are the community’s major threats?
  • What are the community’s major opportunities?

There are no standard procedures for how to answer those questions; it can be done by a small group of people who know a community well, by looking at existing community data sources, or by conducting a community survey.

Summary of Costs

Associated Costs
  • Facilitation
  • Other


  • A SWOT analysis is extremely flexible in that it can be used to evaluate a position, an idea, an individual, an organization, a strategy, or a whole community. It can be done by a whole team together or by a subcommittee or an individual who shares the results with the planning team.
  • SWOT analyses help to isolate key issues to identify and resolve barriers to success.
  • The SWOT framework helps elicit information from different points of view, allowing factors to be considered from internal and external standpoints. The more perspectives involved, the more useful the information.
  • SWOT analyses support a comprehensive, thoughtful, and strategic approach to analysis that may have an impact on the identified goals.
  • SWOT anayses are typically very easy and inexpensive. They can become more difficult and costly if they include public participation components.


  • SWOT analyses have been criticized as outdated, and because they sometimes rely on “catchall questions” and produce misleading results.
  • SWOT analyses may be biased, depending on who is completing them and what the analysis is based on.
Submitted By: svannostrand
Last Updated: August 8, 2012, 12:57 pm