- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Foresight Scenario Testing - Part 4
This variation of the SWOT analysis differs significantly from traditional business applications which focus on the strengths and weaknesses internal to the organization and the opportunities and threats that exist outside of the organization. All of the data in these quadrants is derived from the performance of the PIRA strategies against the four Worlds described by the Global Governance scenario report. “In a scenario project, the insights from a SWOT analysis are highly useful… they can increase the relevance of scenarios when inserted into the scenario stories developed later on” (Chermack, 2011, p. 108). This additional layer of analysis helps to gauge the overall impact of all of the strategies acting in concert, rather than each individual performance within a specific scenario.
SWOT Analysis Summary
Based on insights gained from the Strategy / Scenario Matrix Analysis, the combined effect of the PIRA strategies working together under any conditions can be visualized below:
Figure 4: SWOT Analysis
SWOT Analysis Explanation
PIRA is designed to perform disaster relief tasks in remote locations that are nearly inaccessible to other relief agencies. Their primary strength lies in their volunteer pool of highly trained RTs and the global community of Rotarians that provide local knowledge of language, geography, culture, and resources; enabling PIRA operations to transcend the limits of international boundaries.
Even though PIRA kits are relatively small, at its core it is still a heavily logistics dependent operation. And while volunteers are its greatest strength, the volunteer pool is limited. The funding model requires an affluent donor base and to reach their goals; they will need to grow their international partnerships.
As macabre as it may sound, both natural and human-caused disasters will be with us forever, and each disaster represents an opportunity to engage with government, firms, donors, and affected populations. Nothing improves volunteer performance as much as real-world experience, and technology as simple as a cell phone video can capture the human drama that becomes a promotional message that is communicated to the world. The key opportunity is to develop new partnerships to engage whatever the future holds.
PIRA thrives in chaotic environments but languishes under highly regulated and controlled regimes. They must strive to avoid centralization, stratification, and certification by international agencies when possible. They are an organization dedicated to providing assistance to geographically remote locations, so getting equipment or personnel stuck in any single location or process that prevents a timely response if fatal to their goals. Nevertheless, some degree of international world order is necessary for their operations, so a complete global catastrophe would likely spell the end for PIRA as well.
Before examining the results of the Stress-Test, this analysis has revealed two salient facts about PIRA operations that define their global landscape, regardless of the strategies employed or the form of global governance that emerges in the future. The first fact is that disasters will always be a part of the human condition; whether natural or human-caused any vision of the future will include a virtually unlimited demand for the services that PIRA provides.
The second fact revealed by this analysis is that due to the PIRA model for adapting its operations to suit a wide variety of geography, culture, and conditions, they are supremely prepared for moving into any future scenario of global governance. These two facts matter because taken together; they describe a highly agile organization with an unconstrained global reach and a nearly unlimited demand for its services. These facts easily support PIRA’s stated goal of growing to provide shelters to one million people each year. Indeed, there may be much more room for additional growth after that goal is achieved.
Two constraints to growth
While the emerging global landscape may support unlimited growth for PIRA, its reliance on volunteers to provide the bulk of its labor and a robust donor base to provide it with sustainable funding are the two key constraints limiting that growth.
The RTs require careful recruitment, selection, and extensive training. The volunteer activities if the Christian network is an amazing asset to PIRA, and their reliance on the Rotary Club for up to 42% of their sustainable funding, while wonderfully generous, also indicates a significant dependence on this single external organization that may become a limiting factor to future growth. Therefore, conclusions emerging from the Stress-Test should prioritize those strategies that either overcome or mitigate these constraints.
Results of the Stress-Test
The first and most strikingly obvious result was displayed in the Scenario / Strategy Matrix Analysis. Almost every PIRA strategy performed best in World 3 “Small is Beautiful” scenario where small firms operate in societies that are governed locally. The only exceptions to this observation were with the strategies of sustainable fundraising, which performed poorly in the World 3 scenario, and media awareness, which performed marginally. Unlike the majority of business firms and governmental organizations, PIRA can scan the global horizon and move with confidence towards the most turbulent areas it can find.
At the opposite end of the spectrum; nearly all of PIRA’s strategies performed marginally or poorly under the World 4 “The Small under Global Rule” scenario where global governance structures regulate and coordinate the existence of small firms. The only exception to this was the strategy of media awareness where the governmental diffusion of technology makes accessibility and ease of use ubiquitous.
A fresh new insight can be gained by observing how the PIRA strategies work when both World 1 “Big Foot in a Local World” and World 3 “Small is beautiful” are considered together. This may seem counterintuitive because each scenario is intended to exist independently and exclusively of any other. However, the commonality between the two scenarios is that both favor local government over global government; it is valuable to understand that this is a critical variable that enables all of the PIRA strategies to perform well.
The SWOT analysis enables PIRA to quickly assess its strengths and weaknesses and move towards opportunities and away from threats. Building on the results from the Scenario / Strategy Matrix Analysis, it is evident that PIRA should focus its efforts in areas of the world dominated by local governments and away from global governmental institutions when possible. In addition, a careful review of PIRA's weaknesses reveals the constraints if faces and suggests opportunities to overcome them.
PIRA has six strategies; of these, the first two (Increase Capacity and Adapt Operations) represent PIRA’s core competencies and position it for success in any alternate future. The second two strategies (Sustained Fundraising and Growing Volunteers) represent PIRA’s major structural weaknesses and constraints to growth. The last two strategies (Media Awareness and Developing Partnerships) most likely represent the best path forward to exploit the opportunities available to them and to overcome the constraints inherent in their organizational model.
Evidence that PIRA’s first two strategies are performing well can be observed via their recent growth rates since inception to their current level which enabled them to respond to 18 different disasters in 17 countries and provide life-giving shelter to over 210,000 families in a single year.
Clearly PIRA recognizes the constraints of volunteers and sustainable fundraising and is already engaged in initiatives to overcome these constraints such as; focusing on improving outreach to the donor base, promoting charitable events, and developing new and innovative fundraising ideas, as well as forming Volunteer Liaison Group dedicated to overseeing volunteer activity, contributing ideas and providing feedback regarding the volunteer network.
The key for PIRA to overcome its structural constraints and to achieve its growth goals is to focus its efforts on the last two strategies and develop a plan to use media awareness to build relationships. This aspect of their strategic planning appears far less developed than their other strategic priorities. Consider that a single organizational relationship with Rotary Clubs International provides PIRA with the assistance of over 1.2 million community leaders and approximately 42% of its sustainable funding. Establishing a single additional organizational relationship with another non-profit (not a global governmental organization) may double both its current volunteer pool and its sustainable funding donor base.
Our recommendation is for PIRA to invest now in capturing and preparing compelling human interest stories from their international operations and focusing those stories on developing strategic partnerships with other non-profit organizations following the Rotary Club model. Careful consideration must be exercised to select strategic partners that have similar interests, but who are not competing with PIRA for scarce resources. Two organizations worth considering might be Habitat for Humanity and Samaritan's Purse. Both organizations are involved in constructing permanent shelter for the less fortunate, on a global scale. Samaritan’s Purse has the additional advantage of being able to tap into the massive population of Christian missionaries and other charitable Christian organizations.
A synergistic relationship is imagined here where the PIRA team acts as the first responders to a disaster situation providing emergency shelter; that is then followed by another organization dedicated to providing long-lasting permanent shelter. By simply re-prioritizing their strategies, PIRA may be able to take advantage of a potential breakthrough that will enable them to prepare for any alternate future, and to achieve, or even exceed, their growth goals.
Return to Strategic Foresight Curated Library
Go back to Foresight Scenario Testing - Part 3
Chermack, T. J. (2011). Scenario Planning in Organizations: How to create, use, and assess scenarios. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Pomares, J. & Abdala, B. (2018). Global governance in 2030: Prospective scenarios on the future of politics. T20 Argentina. Retrieved from https://www.cippec.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Global-Governance-in-2030.pdf