Understanding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within your community can help shape the mission of your site. Creating a simple SWOT analysis will lay the foundation of community outreach and integration. Identify the assets you possess at your site and ways to deploy them to make a positive impact on your community. Invite community leaders, treatment providers, hospitals, and others to your site to better understand the work you are doing. When we are able to convey an overlap of missions between stakeholders, i.e. helping to better the lives of those in the community, trust is built and partnerships are able to flourish.
For many clinical research sites, actively participating within the communities you serve has not been a priority. When making an assertive effort to be an active participant in the community, you must understand what you have to offer, what your community has to offer, ways to work together and barriers which arise when taking these vital steps. The clearest method to define these areas is a quick Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. This process will give you a clear look at the landscape around you and can be the blueprint for community integration.
Strengths and Weaknesses are defined as internal factors your site currently possesses such as:
- Company culture
- Employees and Leadership
Weaknesses and Opportunities are defined as external factors which come from the larger environment surrounding your site such as:
- Medical providers
- Potential Volunteers/Current Volunteers
There is no objective way of measuring how well you do a SWOT analysis. It is simply observing internal and external factors that can impact your site. It’s not about making accurate predictions; it’s about knowing what to plan for.
There are several steps in creating a SWOT analysis.
- Gather the right people- While many decisions are made by upper management, it is important to open this process to all people with interest in your success as a site, even people who don’t fully understand your business. Including as many employees as possible will increase the buy-in and broaden valuable insight.
- Host a brainstorming session- Gather your team and list all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (better with smaller teams) or have individuals make their own lists (better with larger teams). Write everything down, do not begin to close out ideas at this point.
- Fill the gaps- Once ALL ideas are on the table, come up with four big lists. Start filling in the gaps and determine how important each item is on the list. Ask each person to choose their top three items from each category. Most likely, patterns will emerge.
- Narrow the Lists- Begin to fit all your ideas on a single page (included in module). Keep larger list from future review.
- Create strategies- For each item on the final list, create a strategy to exploit the advantages and opportunities and deal with the weaknesses and threats. Keep the plan broad. When ask yourself the following: How can you use your strengths to improve your weaknesses? How can you exploit opportunities to neutralize your threats? Can you leverage your strengths to better take advantage of opportunities? Is there a weakness you need to prioritize in order to prevent a threat?
Once you’ve worked out the most important items, flesh out your action plan and start the work.
Sites have used this concept to proactively:
- Support local advocacy by joining boards, using site staff for helping educate advocacy and families about medicine, research, complexities of indications, etc.
- Providing funding for advocacy, participating in community events, building partnerships with medical providers and treatment facilities, etc.
- Utilize outreach into new areas of the community not previously explored.
- Design plans to become community leaders in research education and outreach.
Sites have also come across barriers as well:
- Resistance from advocacy to become associated with research.
- Medical and treatment community hesitant to educate consumers about potential research opportunities.
- Cautious when associating with research due to stigma around research.
It is important that you use The STARR Coalition and its stakeholders as a resource when you put your plan into action. We are here to ensure clinical research sites become a pillar of their community.