Whilst AI (Appreciative Inquiry) practitioners would avoid SWOT, preferring to use SOAR as a more asset-based approach to discernment, the SWOT technique (exploring strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) can still have its place in project planning.
What are the advantages of the idea? How does it benefit the group/church/community/kingdom? What do we already have in place that will help us do this? Skills? People? Equipment? Knowledge? Is this a new idea? How? What is different from things we have tried before?
What are the disadvantages of the idea? What will it cost the group in time, money and effort? What would we need, in order to do this, that we don't have? Skills? People? Equipment? Knowledge? Money? Do we have the time to do this properly? How will this affect other activities the group does? What might stop this from working? What will happen if it doesn't work?
What seasons, trends and fashions in the wider world support this idea? What information or research do we know of that supports this idea? Will this idea help us to reach people we have never reached before? Are there any other groups or organisations who would like to work with us on this?
How do we make sure our project is environmentally responsible/legal/safe? Is there anything we are relying on to make this project work - for instance, the weather? What happens if this goes wrong? What obstacles might we face along the way when trying to put our plan into action? Can we be sure we will have enough money, people, time etc. to see us through to the end of the project?
The SWOT approach can be adapted in lots of creative ways in order to draw learning from a group of people:
Pretty much the same idea as above, except this time you add an extra section - Training. This helps the group to think further about what they might need to have in place before they move ahead with an idea.
2) Forcefield analysis
A force field analysis helps to assess an idea carefully by identifying the forces that support and hinder it. This technique can be used in a fairly large group, as long as everyone has the chance to participate.
The group identifies a current problem, phenomenon, difficulty or idea that they would like to see changed/acted on. The facilitator writes this issue in the centre of a piece of flipchart paper. Then, on the right side of the paper, the group lists all the forces that are preventing the change or idea from taking place (barriers). On the left side of the paper the group lists all the forces that are pushing for or supporting the change (supports).
3) 'Hot Spots' and 'Grot Spots'
An activity that might work better with an all-age group and a way of exploring strengths and weaknesses of a church or community. This asks people to identify what they see as being the 'Hot Spots' (ie. the things they really like) in their church or community and the 'Grot Spots' (the things they really don't like or would like to see change). This can be done in several creative ways, such as:
a) Send people out into the community, or wandering around the church, with a camera (or the camera on their mobile phones) to take photos of the Hot Spots and Grot Spots, then allow people a way of sharing these (by email, by adding them to a presentation compiled from everyone's contributions etc.).
b) Give people a pile of sticky notes or stickers in two different colours - one colour representing the Hot Spots, one representing the Grot Spots - and ask them to walk around the church or other appropriate building or area, attaching the notes/stickers to the appropriate places.
c) Using a map of the area (or a plan of a building) ask people to mark in some way (stickers, coloured pens, cocktail sticks) what they see as the Hot Spots and Grot Spots.
For more creative facilitation and consultation ideas, download section four of the Methodist Church's Voice Activated resource, which can be found here: /our-work/our-work-in-britain/children-and-youth/the-well-for-workers/downloadable-resources/voice-activated/voice-activated-resource