Several years back, I came up with an alternative to a SWOT analysis, that I call Roots, Fruits, Birds and Bugs. I've done it with up to 40 people but I'm sure you could scale it up for larger groups.
I use this activity when I want a group of people to talk in-depth about a particular issue or idea. For example, we used when creating the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Economic Development Strategic Plan to get the youth in our community talking about what they wanted to see in our community in the future.
It takes between one and two hours, depending on the size of the group and how talkative people are.
- A large piece of paper (I usually use flipchart paper)
- Markers (big and small)
- Sticky notes - try and get apple/flower shaped ones, droplet/heart shaped ones, and then medium size square ones in two different colours
- Introduce yourself and set the stage for your gathering, with opening comments/prayer/ice breakers as appropriate for your community or group.
- Introduce your topic: why are you asking people to weigh in on this particular topic? What is going to happen with the feedback from this activity? What is happening right now, regarding this topic, that will be helpful for people to know as they go through the activity?
- Draw a horizontal line representing the ground, and then a big tree on your paper, with bare branches. Explain that the tree represents your topic, which can grow and flourish (if the "roots" are healthy) to nurture the community with the "fruits". However, the tree can be threatened by "birds" (unforeseen impacts) and "bugs" (harm that comes from within the community/organization, and/or harm that is predictable)
(Let's use economic development as an example topic. I would interchange key words like "wealth" and "business" and "jobs" to help encourage people to weigh in if they don't have a complete grasp on what economic development includes)
- Roots (a.k.a. strengths): Hand out the water droplet/heart shaped sticky notes and ask people to write down their answers to the following kinds of questions: What strengths do we have, around economic development? What are our traditional values regarding economic development? What are some words of wisdom from our elders about economic development?
Ask people to share with you what they've written, while collecting their sticky notes and placing them on the "roots" part of your drawing.
- Fruits (a.k.a. opportunities): Hand out the apple or flower shaped sticky notes and ask people to write down their answers to the following kinds of questions: What do you hope to see in the future, in terms of wealth and jobs and businesses in our community? What would a wealthy community look like to you? If our community was wealthy, what would that mean for yourself and your family?
Ask people to share with you what they've written, while collecting their sticky notes and placing them on the branches of your drawing.
At this point you could say something along these lines:
Now that you've talked about your strengths and opportunities, let's talk about the things that could prevent us from reaching that ideal future, where we are a wealthy, self-sufficient community.
- Birds (a.k.a. threats): Hand out one of the colours of square sticky notes, and ask people to write down their answers to the following questions: What could come out of nowhere, like a flock of birds to eat all the fruit out of the tree, and prevent us from reaching our dreams? What unpredictable things could hold us back from our vision?
Ask people to share with you what they've written, while collecting their sticky notes and placing them in the sky on your drawing.
- Bugs (a.k.a. weaknesses): Hand out the other colour of square sticky notes, and ask people to write down their answers to the following questions: What is happening in our community right now that could hold us back from accomplishing our dreams? What are the problems we already have, that we need to deal with to move forward on this?
Ask people to share with you what they've written, while collecting their sticky notes and placing them on the ground on your drawing.
- Review some of the key "roots", "fruits", "birds" and "bugs" and ask if anyone has any final things they'd like to add to one of these sections
- Invite participants to share final comments
- Close the meeting with thank-you's, door prizes, a meal, or however you would normally close a meeting
(Also, solidarity to the Heiltsuk Nation in their stand against DFO and the herring opening this year, if you're in the Vancouver area please head over to the DFO office to support those who are occupying the space in protest!)