Archive:SWOT analysis

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In order to understand what a SWOT analysis is, you should read this simple explanation of SWOT analysis. It is part of a larger strategic planning process.

We should try to work through other parts of this strategic planning process as part of our long-term planning, but right now I will just do some SWOT.

To see an imperfect example from a local chapter, check out FC Swarthmore's SWOT analysis. I don't think the Swarthmore group fully understood the difference between Strengths/Weaknesses and Opportunities/Threats; the former are supposed to be internal factors, while the latter are supposed to be external factors. On the other hand, I suppose that you could consider factors "outside of our control" to be external factors, such as the date of my graduation, even though my future absence is kind of an internal problem.

Also, the Swarthmore SWOT analysis failed to take the second step and develop a "SWOT matrix" for developing strategies based on combining pairs of categories, e.g. using strengths to capitalize on opportunities.

Environmental scan


  • A real student movement
    • Founded by students, run by students for students.
    • We are not an astroturf campaign, we don't follow marching orders from anyone.
    • This jives well with our theme of bottom-up participatory culture.
  • Strong supporters
    • Our contacts at Creative Commons, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are always willing and able to help us, advice or otherwise.
    • When we needed a fiscal agent, PK stepped up.
    • Whenever we request advice on our blog, etc., we have plenty of people, many who are experts, willing and able to give advice.
  • Strong sense of purpose
    • We all know why we're here, and we believe in the cause


  • Poor gender/ethnicity balance
    • Our three current directors are all male and are 5/6 white. (Nelson is half-Chinese)
    • The steering committee only has one woman on it.
    • Fred says FC NYU is mostly female, our two contacts at Duke are women, Bryn Mawr is obviously completely female, but none of them have been involved on the national level recently. I suspect that many of our local groups suffer from similar diversity problems.
  • Poor 'cultural' diversity.
    • Too many computer geeks and law geeks, not enough other kinds of people.
      • Other 'kinds' of people include artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc.
  • We have not yet succeeded in producing a concise definition/explanation of free culture, or a mission statement for our organization.
    • Therefore it is difficult to explain to others what we do, even if we know what free culture is ourselves. This puts us at a disadvantage in a "bumper sticker culture", as Lessig put it.


  • "No natural predators"
    • We don't have any organized opposition within our colleges.
    • There's no "permission culture" student group, although there are many who fail to understand our issues. Therefore, we have a chance to set the terms of debate/discussion on our campuses.
  • We also have a chance to act as a "big tent" organization and encompass all student interests, rather than restricting ourselves to one side of a battle. After all, we're about balance, there's plenty of room to talk about creators' rights and how artists can make money, for example. (This could be a natural state of affairs for us... after all, are there any anti-environmentalist groups on campuses?)
    • There are no established anti-environmentalist groups on campuses (AFAIK), but environmentalist causes sometimes run into opposition with other groups' policies. So, for instance, policies we support may from time to be opposed by the College Republicans, or network administrators, or what have you. -- Gavin 15:57, 15 Jun 2005 (EDT)


  • RIAA/MPAA "education" programs.
    • Chances are that they'll backfire as badly as the DARE program has, but what if they don't?
      • We need to get real copyright curricula into schools that educate students about their rights, and counter the absolutism/expansionism of the *AA.
      • Otherwise the next generation could be brainwashed into believing things like "intellectual property is just like physical property", without any understanding of history or the Constitution, and our clubs could someday be hard-pressed to find members. (Not that this isn't the case today, but probably for different reasons...)

SWOT Matrix

Strengths Weaknesses
Opportunities S-O strategies W-O strategies
Threats S-T strategies W-T strategies

S-O strategies

  • Because we are a real student movement, we should be able to pulverize any astroturfed content industry supporters. I don't have any specific suggestions.

W-O strategies

  • We need to figure out how to become more diverse so that we can truly represent the student population, and pre-empt any astroturf campaigns or organized opposition. Otherwise, demographics that we don't cover adequately could become targets for the content industry.

S-T strategies

  • Because we are a real student movement, we can make lesson plans that treat kids as equals, and we can draw serious academic support for any curricula that we produce or promote. Therefore our curricula should have far more credibility than the one-sided, absurd, and condescending **AA lesson plans.

W-T strategies

  • Unless we become more diverse, we may not be able to send credible representatives to, say, inner-city schools.