A Futurist's Fieldguide
STEEP stands for 'social, technological, environmental, economic and political' factors (aka trends, forces, change drivers) that are external to the system, issue or question examined in the futuring exercise, but can influence it. Other acronyms might be encountered (such as PEST, PESTLE, STEP, etc.), but these all point to a similar way of categorising factors in the external environment:
There are a few ways to approach STEEP analysis, depending on the purpose of the futuring exercise, as well as time, expertise and resources available.
When accuracy of the information is important and there are resources available to involve a futurist, foresight strategist or (trend) analyst, the horizon scanning and analysis of trends in STEEP categories can be outsourced to this person or organisation.
When there is time and resources available for the participants themselves to do the research and analysis, this can be an excellent way to create a sense of ownership of the content and process before a futuring workshop. You can assist the participants in framing and documenting the research, pointing to potential gaps and suggesting (online) sources. However it is also important that the participants have enough freedom to design and conduct the research process on their own. The results might not be as accurate, deep and broad as they would be if an expert were involved, but they can provide insight into the particular lenses and interests that already exist in the group.
Finally, the shortest but also least accurate technique is to use the readymade knowledge and assumptions that participants already have to shape their landscape of driving forces. This can be done during the workshop with little or no preparation beforehand.
The following process assumes that there is some knowledge about the STEEP factors present in the group, whether by consulting an expert, independent research or existing perceptions.