Public Lab Wiki documentation

Reflect and Look Ahead

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This is one of a series of guides for collaborative environmental research and advocacy projects. A "SWOT" (Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats) analysis is helpful for a group to assess their project and make decisions about directions to take in the future.

Planning this event

Ahead of time:

  • Pick a time that is convenient for the most people involved
  • Find a space, it may be useful to be indoors with enough chairs, restrooms, and some wall space or at least floor space available, etc.
  • Send invites two weeks to a month in advance

Materials to have on hand:

  • markers
  • big chart paper, either one really big piece, or four individual pieces
  • tape (to tape the chart paper to the wall)
  • 3x3" or 4"x4" sticky notes. It may be helpful to have different colors for different people to use.
  • a camera or phone that can take a picture
  • a large print-out of your goals matrix that you made at the beginning of the project

Day of:

  • Hang up your goals matrix from the beginning of the year

  • Across the top of the first piece of chart paper, write Strength in giant letters. On three other pieces of chart paper, write Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.


Activity 1: Assess how the year went using SWOT

As a group, take a look at your goals matrix. Ask people to identify:

  • What was achieved?
  • What targets were over or under?

Based on this, conduct a SWOT analysis. Here is some background on what this is and what it's for.

From the Wikipedia link:

  • Strengths: characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others.
  • Weaknesses: characteristics that place the business or project at a disadvantage relative to others.
  • Opportunities: elements that the project could exploit to its advantage.
  • Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project.

Getting started:

First: Participants individually write aspects of the year on post-it notes.

Group Activity: Everyone goes up to the wall and places their post-its on a chart paper under certain headings.

The upper row of Strengths and Weaknesses can be further understood as coming from internal to the project, and the lower row of Opportunities and Threats as external influences: graphic from Wikipedia


Once everyone's post-it notes are up on the wall, Activity 1 is done.

Activity 2: Look Ahead

Gather around the SWOT paper and see what everyone else put up there. Are any of them saying the same thing? If so, gather those post-its into a little cluster, maybe draw a circle around them.

Look back at your SWOT analysis and think about what to do differently next year.

During this conversation, the facilitator can update the goals matrix (from for use next year by writing directly on the large print-out.

Activity 3: Document and get excited for next year!

The last step of this activity is to post a research note with your updated goals matrix, and tag it with your place's name, your project name if it exists yet, and also "reflect-and-look-ahead,goals-matrix". Enjoy the winter break!