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The purpose of a SWOC analysis is to identify the main Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Constraints that characterize a particular situation or entity, such as a programme or an institution. SWOC analysis is often used as a management tool.

In this Assessment Tool you are asked to undertake a SWOC analysis at the end of each of the four main assessment sections36. This will enable you to organize, summarize and even prioritize the wealth of information you have gathered during the process of working through the questions in each section.

Step 1

Each SWOC analysis should be undertaken by the Assessment Team as a whole. If the Team includes more than seven members, create groups of team members. Groups should contain a minimum of two and a maximum of four persons per group. If you need to divide a large assessment team into groups, try to end up with four to seven groups comprised of two to four persons each.

Step 2

On a large board or wall, draw the following blank table:


On a flip chart, write the words Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Constraints at the top of four pages (one on each page).

Step 3

Starting with Strengths, ask each member or group37 to identify the strengths of the assessment section under discussion e.g. What are the main strengths of the macroenvironment? You should allow a minimum of 30 minutes for this part of the process. Allow more time if you observe that individuals/groups are still adding items to their list.

Step 4

Working with the whole Assessment Team, list all identified strengths on the relevant page of the flip chart. Through discussion, narrow down the list by crossing out repeated items, dropping those that the Team decides are inappropriate, and combining others that are similar. Try to make sure that all members of the Team contribute to the discussion. When the list is final, transfer the agreed items to the blank table prepared in Step 2.

Step 5

Repeat the process in order to identify weaknesses, opportunities and constraints. When discussing opportunities, you should consider circumstances or potential factors that could be exploited so as to improve the impact or sustainability or cost-effectiveness of the programme you are assessing. Here are some examples of opportunities:

The results of the SWOC analyses (as well as the completed Summary Report in Annex 1) will form an excellent basis for decisions on what actions are needed to improve your programme. As with the Problem Tree Analysis, the process of undertaking the analysis is as important as its results.


Supplies needed

Note cards or sheets of paper, felt pens or markers, adhesive material to hold cards on a large surface area (a wall, for example, and preferably one where the problem tree could remain for some days).

Step 1: Definition of the problem statement

Problem tree analysis is carried out to help identify the causes and consequences of a particular problem that the group feels needs to be urgently addressed. If more than one high priority problem is identified, there has to be consensus building on which problem the group (i.e. the Assessment Team) will analyse. Everyone should also clearly understand what is meant by a consequence and by a cause of the problem. At the outset, the process of developing a problem tree starts with a statement about the main problem to be investigated, i.e. the core or the focal problem. For example, in the case of this Assessment Tool, the problem statement could be something like “There is a high incidence of undernutrition and malnutrition which needs to be permanently corrected”, or “The programme [that you are assessing] is not achieving improved nutrition or is not sustainable”, or “Increasing agricultural production has not achieved better access to food by the poorest communities/households”. The statement needs to be written out and put on a board or wall. This will constitute the surface on which the problem tree will be developed.

Step 2: Identifying the consequences of the problem

Each member is given one card on which she/he writes what is perceived as one consequence of the problem. If the Assessment Team is small, such as only five or six members, each member may fill in more than one card in order to identify several consequences. Each consequence should be written down on a separate card and be described in a maximum of five to seven words (in one word if possible) and written in large characters to be readily readable by other members when the cards are put up above the statement of the basic problem. Cards that refer to the same or very similar consequences can be grouped together and if needed, re-labelled, based on consensus within the Team.

Step 3: Identifying the causes of the problem

Identifying causes follows a similar process. This is the main purpose of the analysis, so more time and energy needs to be devoted to this aspect. Identification of causes is crucial to developing strategies and designing actions to eliminate or mitigate the problem (if the underlying hypothesis of the problem is correct). Again each member is given one or more card to write down succinctly what are the underlying causes of the problem and these cards are placed below the statement.

Step 4: Building a hierarchy of the causes of the problem

In the group discussion that follows, causes are clustered and if needed, each cluster is renamed. A hierarchy of causes is established, from those most immediate to the problem, down to the fundamental causes. Links can also be established between the causes themselves (see the example on the next page). This is important because where there are links among causes, several parallel actions may be required to eliminate the problem.

Step 5: Using the problem tree to identify actions

The Team should return to the problem tree after completing each Assessment Section. Based on its assessment, the Team may wish to add or remove causes. Then the problem tree and the assessment can be used to identify actions relevant to each section.

Remember that undergoing the process is as important as obtaining the results, because it encourages participation from those who normally tend to participate little. The process is also designed for the participants to take ownership of the implementation of the follow-up actions.


Reproduced by permission of Macmillan, Oxford. “Partners in Planning. Information, Participation and Empowerment”. Susan B. Rifkin and Pat Pridmore, Macmillan Education Ltd., 2001. © Copyright text Susan B. Rifkin and Pat Pridmore, 2001.

Appendix 2: Using the spidergram to measure participation

The spidergram has lines on which the participation in a programme can be measured in five key areas - needs assessment, leadership, organisation, resource mobilisation and management. We can use the spidergram to help us decide whether participation in each of these five areas is broad (mark 4 or 5) or narrow (mark 1 or 2). When the level of participation has been marked on each arm of the spidergram the marks can be joined up to show a spider web as shown in FIGURE 41. At a later stage of the programme the activity can be repeated to decide whether the level of participation has changed over time.


FIGURE 40 Participation viewed as a spidergram (Note: Marking begins at 1 as there is no community programme without some participation.)

From experience:
Assessing participation in Tanzania
A district health management team in Lushoto district, Tanzania wanted to know how much local participation there was in a health programme in one of the communities in their district. They decided to use the spidergram as a tool to help them conduct an exercise to measure the participation. This exercise was facilitated by an ‘outside’ development professional. It started with a four-day workshop to help the team understand the spidergram and develop skill in using it The team then went to the community and interviewed 22 people and made observations to gather the information they needed. When this fieldwork had been done the team reviewed their information. Then they agreed where to put a mark on each of the five lines of the spidergram. They completed their diagram by joining up the marks on each arm to start a spiderweb. The results drawn on the spidergram showed that participation in the needs assessment was very broad. However, in the other areas (leadership, organisation, resource mobilisation and management) participation was quite narrow.
FIGURE 41 Measuring change in participation
When the team discussed their experience of using the spidergram as a tool for measuring participation they concluded that:
1It gave individuals new insight about how co-operation took place in the community.
2It provided a systematic collection of information on each of the five key areas on which future decisions could be based.
3It helped clarify problems in participation in the community that the team ‘felt’ existed but which could not otherwise be documented.
4It helped the team to clarify their own view of participation.
5It promoted a good exchange of views between the team of government officials and the local people.
(Source: Adapted from Schmidt, D. H. and Rifkln, S.B, (1996) ‘Measuring participation; its use as a managerial tool for district health planners based on a case study in Tanzania’, International Journal of Health Planning and Management Vol. 11. October-December, pp. 345–58)

Training exercise:
Measuring participation using the spidergram
Purpose: To develop understanding and skill in using the spidergram as a tool to measure participation.
Time: One and a half hours.
Materials: Copies of the Primary Health Care programmes given in the case study from Peru in Appendix 3. Flipchart paper and thick pens.
Preparation: If possible, give a copy of the case study and the list of questions to each participant to read before the session. As the facilitator you will need to read this case study and also look at the spidergrams in FIGURES 40 and 41 which have been drawn to help you facilitate this training exercise.
1Explain the purpose of the session and using a blank sheet of flipchart show how to draw a spidergram, one step at a time. You can use FIGURE 40 above as a model and make your drawing as large as possible. Start by placing a large dot in the middle of the paper and then draw a line out from the centre to represent each of the five lines of the spidergram.
2Explain that each of the five lines represents one of the five key areas in which we can measure participation - needs assessment, leadership, organisation, resource mobilisation and management. Label each of the lines.
3Explain that each of the lines can be viewed as a continuum starting with narrow participation in the centre of the spidergram which gets broader as you move outwards towards the end of each arm. Explain that none of the key areas can be marked at zero because there is always some participation in the community.
4Make points along each of the lines to divide them into five equal sections. Explain that we can use these five points as a scale to measure participation. For example, if we find that professionals are making most of the decisions and providing most of the resources then participation is narrow. But if local people are planning, implementing and evaluating the programme using the professionals as resources then participation is broad.
5Take each of the five areas in turn and ask participants to brainstorm about questions to describe how narrow or broad participation is. For example, we need questions to show how:
  • needs assessment is broad if local people do it and narrow if the professionals do it.
  • leadership is broad if the community leaders show that they care about the entire community by stressing the needs of the poor, leadership is narrow if only the leaders' personnel needs are considered.
  • organisation is broad if the programme is linked up with other community programmes and narrow if a new programme is started which is not linked up to existing programmes.
  • resource mobilisation is broad if the community contributes money, materials and people, and narrow if all resources come from the outside agency.
  • management is broad if the community manages the programme and narrow if professionals manage it.
6Divide participants into small groups and ask each group to draw a large diagram of a spidergram on flipchart paper. Check that they have labelled each of the five lines and divided each axis into five sections to give a five-point scale.
7Explain that they are going to measure the experience of participation given in the case study of the urban health programme in Peru. (If they were not given the case study to read in advance give them time to read it now.)
8Suggest that they start by selecting one of the five lines and come to an agreement about how broad the participation is in this key area at an early stage when the programme is just being started. They should record their decision by making a mark on the scale from 1 (narrow) to 5 (broad). They should repeat this until a mark has been made on each of the five lines. Then they should draw a line to connect each of the five points they have made - to make the spider web.
9Now ask each group to do this exercise again but this time they should come to an agreement about how broad the participation is in each of the five key areas at a later stage when the programme has become established.
10Display all the spidergrams and ask each group in turn to explain their diagram. Lead a discussion to explore any major differences between the diagrams. Finally, ask people to compile their own criteria for defining how narrow or broad participation is - based on their own experience and the experience in the classroom.

36 Assessing Programme Design; Assessing the Macroenvironment; Assessing the Microenvironment; Assessing Sustainability

37 If groups are formed in Step 1, the groups should work separately to compile one list per group.

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