Tool 2.2a:  SWOT analysis - external threats and opportunities

SWOT analysis is a commonly used tool in strategic planning and elsewhere. It is classically used to look at the internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and the external Opportunities and Threats. This classic model is presented below. However, as described in the main text, it can also be useful to consider the internal Opportunities and Threats, and indeed the strengths and weaknesses of other stakeholders external to the organization.


To take into account the actual external situation (existing threats and non-exploited opportunities) as well as possible trends and developments faced by the National Society so that improvements and adjustments could be made to improve the existing performance or engage in new services.


Definition: SWOT analysis consists of three parts: a) The external analysis of the environment to identify opportunities and threats, and b) the internal analysis of the organization to identify the existing strengths and weaknesses, c) prioritizing future actions. In this step the participants will discuss:

  • An opportunity is defined as an external factor or development that, if taken advantage of, can contribute to the realization of the National Society’s mission. It could be new possibilities for cooperation, a new target group or demands for new services. Opportunities for development of organizational capacity may arise in the event of gaps in the service to the target group, in times of disaster and humanitarian need.
  • A threat can be defined as an external factor or development that has or can have a substantial negative effect on an organization’s performance. Threats are challenges posed by unfavourable trends or developments in the environment that will lead to the erosion of the organization’s position, if no corrective action is taken. Threats to development of Red Cross Red Crescent projects/organizations can be found in for example:

  • Other projects/organizations coming in with similar services
  • Social, economic and cultural development affecting the direct needs of target groups
  • Collaborators changing their strategy, activities and target groups diminishing capability of collaborators (e.g. diminishing implementing capacity) changes in donor policies
  • Changes in availability of resources (human and financial, etc.)
  • Changes in government policies and regulations.


By end of the SWOT analysis session, participants will be able to:

  1. Answer the following questions on Opportunities and Threats: 
  • What are the external threats facing us in the next period of time?
  • What are the external Opportunities facing us?
  • What is really important for our current and future work?
  • What is too serious to ignore?
  1. Write one threat or one opportunity on each card, (can have as many cards as they need)
  2. Place all cards in columns under headings Opportunities / Threat, and put up on the board
  3. Cluster similar issues and discuss

Get rid of duplicates and reformulate sentence if necessary.


SWOT analysis, brainstorming, visualization techniques.


  1. SWOT analysis workshop organized with key participants from National Society and stakeholders
  2. Results of workshop (opportunities, threats and trends) compiled.

(External - present)                                          (Strategic thinking - future)      

O  - Opportunities

Describe the external opportunities that exist outside the National Society

How to expand on it?

Discuss how the National Society could expand using the opportunities

T  - Threat

Describe the external threat that exist outside the National Society

How to tackle it?

Discuss how the National Society could tackle, minimize, neutralize and avoid the threats


Our three greatest opportunities

Our three most critical threats




External changes and  trends that will have future impact on the National Society

How the National Society could respond to the selected trends




In relation to target group oriented opportunities the following table can be considered:

Opportunities related to services and target groups

Target group

Present services

New services

Present target groups

Project intensification

Service development

New target groups

Project replication

Project diversification

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