Monday, December 13, 2010


Last week was an especially good week, although I forgot to mention why. On Wednesday I completed my first self-initiated project for my office, the FODA (also known as a SWOT analysis in English). I didn’t consider writing about the exercise until today, when we were riding through sunshine and over a bumpy dirt road, with lush tropical plants and Tajamulco off in the distance (it’s the tallest volcano in Central America). Frequently, I have to remind myself what I’m doing and where I live; here it’s almost Christmas and daytime temperatures are in the 80’s.

Anyway, so the FODA is an acronym that stands for Fortalezas, Oportunidades, Debilidades and Amenazas. Translated, that’s Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses and Threats, which is why the English version is known as a SWOT. It’s a pretty straightforward exercise, meant to be a reflection of an organization’s weak and strong points, self-identified through a facilitation session that allows all responsible parties to not only acknowledge the group’s organizational state but also identify avenues for improvement. The operational phrase is, “how can we take advantage of our strengths and opportunities, while using them to counter our weaknesses and avoid our threats?”

It’s a cool exercise. As facilitator you provide a series of pointed questions for each category, asking your group to consider their own situation and identify the character of their organization. Meanwhile, you record their responses on a piece of butcher paper. Once all 4 categories have been explored, you review the brainstorm and solicit ideas on how group members think they can optimize their current situation with available resources. Really, it’s just a way to get people to reconsider their own environment, putting old problems in a new light and eliciting discussion. In addition, it helped that my outsider perspective made my question asking and facilitation seem natural, as I don’t really know what’s going on in my office, not yet.

Bottom line is, no matter how operationally flawed my Muni might be (internet is still out, employees are still two months behind on wages), I can still facilitate trainings like these and get people thinking. That’s the hope anyway.

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