SWOT Analysis

EcoCityAlexandria_LogoSmallCropped_wwords   Link to full SWOT Analysis report

A major goal for this project was to help prepare the OEQ and the EPC for next year’s EAP update. As a complement to the student policy briefs, the following SWOT analysis of the EAP’s content and format can help guide the City’s efforts to implement existing actions and set new ones. The SWOT analysis examines the City’s overall Eco-City Initiative as well as the EAP because it is difficult to separate the two from each other.

The SWOT analysis below looks at different aspects of the EAP, its relationship to other officially adopted policies and plans and the City’s capacity and commitment to put in place the numerous EAP action steps. As noted in the table below, a traditional SWOT analysis examines the respective Strengths and Weaknesses of an organization or initiatives. In this case the EAP and related plans, programs and policies. It also considers the role of various City departments, other agencies, and community-based nonprofits engaged in the Eco-City endeavor by posing important questions, such as what have they done and how they could improve implementation of the EAP and Eco-City Charter. The SWOT analysis also discusses external drivers—the positive Opportunities that could advance the EAP and Charter along with the potential Threats that could hamper the City’s Eco-City Initiative.

Sample SWOT Analysis Questions

Strengths (Internal) Weaknesses (Internal)
What are its assets, benefits and/or advantages?What do you/your organization(s) do well?What have you accomplished? What can you/your organization do to improve?What is done poorly?What areas are not covered?
Opportunities (External) Threats (External)
What are the opportunities facing you and your organizations?What are the opportunities you might choose to pursue?What trends can you take advantage of? What obstacles do you/your organization face?Are the requirements needed to address issues changing?What is holding your organization back?

Source: adapted from http://betterevaluation.org/evaluation-options/swotanalysis

In compiling this SWOT analysis, VT leveraged its previous experience working with the City on the original Eco-City Charter and EAP along with its growing knowledge from the sustainability efforts of other cities. Many conversations were made with EPC members, City staff, and local citizens, which helped frame the context for this SWOT analysis. Several passages in this analysis stem from class assessments, dialogue between students and practitioners, and incorporating knowledge of other model practices from comparable jurisdictions.

RECOMMENDATION: As part of the formal EAP Update process, OEQ and EPC should conduct a series of SWOT sessions with City officials, City staff and key stakeholders and residents to get their thoughts on the EAP and Eco-City’s relative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Backgrounder on SWOT Analysis

Strategic planning can help organizations address complex internal management issues and enable communities to address intricate external policy problems. A good strategic plan can help organizations identify trends and prepare for change. A good strategic plan can also provide a roadmap for achieving a vision that often requires wise decision-making and strong leadership. [1] Strategic plans typically set broad goals with more specific objectives along with different action plans that target resources, staff, and programs to specific activities or places consistent with the organization’s overall vision and mission.

The City of Alexandria’s 2010 Strategic Plan, along with the 2008 Eco-City Charter offer a good foundation of sustainability goals and principles. In fact, the Strategic Plan’s environmental section uses common sustainability language and terms. Collectively the city’s Strategic Plan encompasses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainability. The Charter, on the other hand, goes even further by defining the essence of ecological sustainability and offers a vision of sustainability tailored for Alexandria’s unique assets and historic characteristics. The EAP attempts to translate the sustainability vision and principles into concrete policy and programmatic actions over the course of short, mid- and long-range time horizons.

One of the first steps in the process of developing or revising a strategic plan or action plan is the evaluation of internal capacity and external dynamics. A common method for completing this assessment is to perform a SWOT Analysis that evaluates an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

  • Strengths and weaknesses assess internal capacity, such as the organizational processes or the fiscal constraints of the environment within which the organization is working; organizations typically have the most control over these internal challenges. Resources, process, and performance measures are useful for evaluating and addressing strengths and weaknesses.[2]
  • External dynamics, the source of opportunities and threats, are often the most influential set of variables but an organization may have little control over them. While threats are more likely to receive attention because of their perceived interference, it is equally important to recognize and capitalize on opportunities.

[1] Herman, Robert D. and Associates, The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994) 154-163.

[2] Ibid.