The municipal institutional assessment and the situation analysis are key inputs for the SWOT.

A SWOT analysis is a useful tool to organise information gathered in the profile/diagnostic period, so that the CDS team and wider stakeholder groups can discuss, prioritise and agree on the issues the city is facing. A SWOT analysis is an analytical method which is used to identify and categorise significant internal (Strengths and Weaknesses) and external (Opportunities and Threats) factors faced either in a particular arena, such as an organisation, or a territory, such as a region, nation, or city.

There is often some discussion on the correct timing of the SWOT analysis: for example, some suggest doing it after the visioning phase. In this case, however, it is considered an effective tool to highlight and organise the problems being faced. It can also be used in a highly interactive manner and to stimulate discussions during participatory events.

SWOT stands for:

Strengths of the organization or city (internal)

Weaknesses of the organization or city (internal)

Opportunities external to the organization or the city, but influencing it (external)

Threats external to the organization or the city but influencing it (external)

Figure 1: Illustration of basic SWOT analysis set-up

A SWOT is good for asking and answering important and difficult questions.

The team can use the problem tree analysis tool to take the SWOT analysis further and link through to setting objectives. A ‘problem tree’ focuses in on core problems and their causes and effects.

The linkage analysis tool allows you to look at links between problems and the impacts one may have on another (i.e. solid waste lying in standing water, and its impact on health).

The section ‘example of a SWOT analysis’ below contains an example of a SWOT analysis conducted by the city of Edmonton (Canada), which may serve as a model for other cities.

The SC and CDS teams, after careful analysis of the diagnostics information, will perform the SWOT analysis. This involves the systematic ordering of information.


When developing the SWOT, it is important to understand that what constitutes “internal” and “external” issues depends on the context. In a SWOT it is very important to define your point of view. For example, if a nation state is taken as starting point, government and private sector economy would be internal. If city government is starting point, private sector and national government would be external.


The table below provides some guidance on the types of questions that stimulate discussion:

Questions on strengths:

What are your city’s advantages?

What does your city do well?

What relevant resources do you have in your city?

What do other people see as strengths of your city?


Questions related to weaknesses

What do you do badly?

What could you improve?

What should you avoid?


Questions related to threats:

What obstacles do you face?

Are there threats to the resilience of the city from climate change?

What is happening around you, in other cities?

How is the economic situation changing?

Are major employers vulnerable?

How is the (inter)national policy environment or political situation changing?

How is demography changing?


Questions to ask when discussing opportunities:

What are the good prospects in front of you?

What are the interesting trends you are aware of (changes in government policy, in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyles, economic development etc.)


Please note: opportunities and threats are often factors over which a city has no or limited control, but have to be taken into account.

The CDS team will then consult with the thematic stakeholder groups and in a wider forum to get feedback on the issues highlighted. This is particularly important as stakeholders often have divergent and conflicting interests and different perspective of the problems and solutions. The objective is for the team to get clarity on the priority issues as a basis for the visioning and strategy development process.

After incorporating feedback from stakeholders and finalising the SWOT, the CDS will again meet to obtain broad consensus on the final version.

The team will have to make use of a publicity campaign to communicate (see communication strategy).

The SWOT, in fact, constitutes the end of the situation analysis. In the end, it will be important for the city council to sign off on the SWOT before proceeding to the next phase. The mayor and the council should be engaged in discussions and be willing to sign off when it comes time.


Output of this sub-phase: SWOT analysis

The figure below is reproduced from the Edmonton economic development strategy, The Way We Prosper, developed in 2012[1].

Figure 2: Summary of SWOT analysis in Edmonton (Canada).