Focus areas: Public management innovation, public ethics, sustainability management, politics, environmental management

Dr. Steven Cohen is the Senior Vice Dean of Columbia’s School of Professional Studies and a Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He is also Director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Director of the Master of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, and the Director of the Earth Institute’s Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management at Columbia University.

He is a 1970 graduate of James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York. Cohen received his B.A. in Political Science from Franklin College of Indiana (1974), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the State University of New York in Buffalo (1977; 1979). In 1976-77, Cohen was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Environmental Policy; in 1978-79, he was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Public and Environmental Policy and Implementation.

Dr. Cohen is the former Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and now serves as a senior advisor for the Institute. He is a former policy analyst and consultant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Cohen has served on numerous boards and committees, including the Board of the Pew Faculty Fellowship in International Affairs, the Executive Committee and Committee on Accreditation and Peer Review of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Homes for the Homeless, Board of Directors of the Willdan Group, Inc., Advisory Board of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, Steering Committee for the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University. Dr. Cohen also serves on the Judging Committee for the Yidan Prize Foundation and is the Chair of the Lotos Club’s Science and Technology Committee.

Dr. Cohen is the author of The Sustainable City (2017, 2020), Understanding Environmental Policy (2006, 2014), Sustainability Management (2011), The Effective Public Manager (1988, now co-authored in its fifth edition), and the co-author of Management Fundamentals (2020), Sustainability Policy: Hastening the Transition to a Cleaner Economy (2015), The Responsible Contact Manager (2008), Strategic Planning in Environmental Regulation (2005), Tools for Innovators: Creative Strategies for Managing Public Sector Organizations (1998), and Total Quality Management in Government (1993). He has written numerous articles on public management, sustainability management, and environmental policy. Dr. Cohen also writes a weekly blog for the Earth Institute’s State of the Planet website.

Research & Publications

June 2020|Columbia University Press|William B. Eimicke, Steven Cohen
November 2017|Columbia University Press|Steven Cohen

Living sustainably is not just about preserving the wilderness or keeping nature pristine. The transition to a green economy depends on cities. For the first time in human history, the majority of the people on the planet live in urban areas. If we are to avert climate catastrophe, we will need our cities to coexist with nature without destroying it. Many places are already investing in the infrastructure of the future—including renewable energy, energy efficiency, mass and personal transit, and advanced sewage and waste management—but the modern city still has a long way to go.

In The Sustainable City, Steven Cohen provides a broad and engaging overview of the urban systems of the twenty-first century, surveying policies and projects already under way in cities around the world and pointing to more ways progress can be made. Cohen discusses the sustainable city from an organizational-management and public-policy perspective that emphasizes the local level, looking at case studies of existing legislation, programs, and public-private partnerships that strive to align modern urban life and sustainability. From waste management in Beijing to energy infrastructure in Africa to public space in Washington, D.C., there are concrete examples of what we can do right now. Cohen synthesizes the disparate strands of sustainable city planning in an approachable and applicable guide that highlights how these issues touch our lives on a daily basis, whether the transportation we take, where our energy comes from, or what becomes of our food waste. Providing recommendations and insights with immediacy and relevance, this book has invaluable lessons for anyone seeking to link public policy to promoting a sustainable lifestyle.

September 2017|Huffington Post|Steven Cohen
March 2017|Manhattan Institute |William B. Eimicke, Steven Cohen, Alison Miller
December 2016|Advanced Leadership Enhancement Program (ALEP)|Steven Cohen, Hayley Martinez, Alix Schroder, Hilary Osborn, Catalina Villegas

Driving Solar Energy in New York City, Hong Kong and Freiburg

July 2011|Columbia University Press|Steven Cohen

Can we grow our world economy and create opportunities for the poor while keeping the planet intact? Can we maintain our vibrant, dynamic lifestyles while ensuring the Earth stays productive and viable? Aimed at managers, students, scholars, and policymakers, Sustainability Management answers these questions in the affirmative, arguing it is possible for environmentally sustainable business practices and policies to foster economic and long-term growth.

Written by a former analyst and consultant with the EPA, this book originally combines sustainable efforts in water, agriculture, urban, and power management to achieve—in practice, not just in theory—a sustainable planet and economy. Steven Cohen begins with the technical, financial, managerial, and political challenges of such a project, and then honestly assesses sustainable practices in the manufacturing and service industries. He addresses renewable and carbon-free energy production; water sustainability, especially with regard to energy issues involving filtration, distribution, and changing rainfall patterns; food cultivation and distribution; and ways to maintain the interdependent systems on which we depend to live. Taking examples from New York City, one of the most sustainable and sustainability-minded metropolises in the world, Cohen explains how everything from construction to waste management can be designed to facilitate a sustainable environment, not just for New York but also for the world. He concludes with this macroscopic view, outlining the global efforts necessary to preserve biodiversity and ecosystems, and the impact of war, terrorism, and human conflict on sustainability.

November 2008|Jossey-Bass|Steven Cohen, William B. Eimicke, Tanya Heikkila

Since it was first published more than twenty years ago, The Effective Public Manager has become the classic resource for public administrators and students. The fourth edition of groundbreaking work synthesizes the current thinking in the field and presents practical lessons and tools in a highly accessible format. Focused on helping real-world managers and managers-to-be meet the demands of their jobs head-on rather than working around the constraints of government, this book offers a fresh approach to implementing effective management tools in a dynamic political, organizational, economic, and technological context.

November 2008|Georgetown University Press|Steven Cohen, William B. Eimicke

Contract management is a critical skill for all contemporary public managers. As more government duties are contracted out, managers must learn to coordinate and measure the performance of private contractors, and to write contract requirements and elicit bids that obtain important services and products at the best possible price and quality. They must also learn to work in teams that include both public and private sector partners.

The Responsible Contract Manager delves into the issues of how to ensure that the work done by private sector contractors serves the public interest and argues for the necessity of making these organizations act as extensions of the public sector while maintaining their private character. Government contract managers have a unique burden because they must develop practices that ensure the production advantages of networked organizations and the transparency and accountability required of the public sector.

The Responsible Contract Manager fills a major gap in public management literature by providing a clear and practical introduction to the best practices of contract management and also includes a discussion of public ethics, governance and representation theory. It is an essential guide for all public management scholars and is especially useful for students in MPA graduate programs and related fields.

October 2008|Meeting of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration|Steven Cohen, Robin DeJong
November 2006|Columbia University Press|Steven Cohen

In Understanding Environmental Policy, Steven Cohen introduces an innovative, multidimensional framework for developing effective environmental policy within the United States and around the world. He demonstrates his approach through an analysis of four case studies representing current local, national, and international environmental challenges: New York City's garbage crisis; the problem of leaks from underground storage units; toxic waste contamination and the Superfund program; and global climate change. He analyzes the political, scientific, technological, organizational, and moral import of these environmental issues and the nature of the policy surrounding them. He also places a specific focus on the response from the George W. Bush administration. Cohen considers how our current environmental policy and problems reflect the value we place on our ecosystems; whether science and technology can solve the environmental problems they create; and what policy is necessary to reduce environmentally damaging behaviors. Cohen's multifaceted approach is essential reading for analysts, managers, activists, students, and scholars of environmental policy.

November 2005|The MIT Press|Steven Cohen, Sheldon Kamieniecki, Matthew A. Cahn

Strategic Planning in Environmental Regulation introduces an approach to environmental regulatory planning founded on a creative, interactive relationship between business and government. The authors argue that regulation—often too narrowly defined as direct, command-and-control standard setting and enforcement—should include the full range of activities intended to influence private behavior to conform to public goals. The concept of strategic regulatory planning that the book introduces provides a model for designing more effective environmental regulation. Strategic planning requires careful consideration of the regulatory objectives, the target audiences for regulation, and the characteristics of the regulatory agency. The two important case studies in the book -- one on the use of the gasoline additive MTBE and the other on the cleanup of underground storage tanks (USTs)—apply the model, compare the approaches and results, and illustrate the advantages of a strategic approach. The case of MTBE—in which an additive intended to produce cleaner-burning gasoline was found to contribute to both air and groundwater pollution—shows the drawbacks of top-down regulation by fragmented regulatory agencies. The success of the UST cleanup, in contrast, highlights a unique, strategic, and results-oriented approach to policy implementation. These two cases demonstrate why regulation works better in some cases than others, and the alternative approaches to regulation described in the book promise to promote the achievement of environmental quality goals.

November 1998|Jossey-Bass|Steven Cohen, William B. Eimicke

Today's public administrators must be more than the effective managers of their agencies' internal operations. In order to manage a complex set of interorganizational relationships spanning governments, nonprofit organizations and private firms in a complex global economy, they and their organizations must be capable of great agility and change. Effectiveness is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success: Today's public managers must reach beyond competence to be creative innovators and agents of change.

This book introduces public sector professionals to a set of innovation tools: Strategic Planning, Reengineering, Total Quality Management, Benchmarking, Performance Measurement and Management, Team Management, Privatization. It shows how to understand them, use them and integrate them into any organization, and how they will take public managers beyond competence to be creative innovators.

The creative public manager must continually look for new tools and new approaches. Tools for Innovators will help in this search, and in meeting and surmounting the challenges of a changing public sector.

November 1995|Jossey-Bass|Steven Cohen, William B. Eimicke

This updated and expanded edition shows managers how to meet the new challenges of public management head-on rather than simply working around the constraints of government. New information includes the response to the crisis in management as reflected in ideas and recommAndations generated from the Volcker, Winter, and Gore commission reports; the effectiveness of the reinvention and reengineering movements in public management; applying hands-on, real-world tested total quality management techniques to the public sector; and much more. Will benefit both public management practitioners and students of public administration and management.

November 1995|Jossey-Bass|Steven Cohen, William B. Eimicke

This updated and expanded edition shows managers how to meet the new challenges of public management head-on rather than simply working around the constraints of government. New information includes the response to the crisis in management as reflected in ideas and recommAndations generated from the Volcker, Winter, and Gore commission reports; the effectiveness of the reinvention and reengineering movements in public management; applying hands-on, real-world tested total quality management techniques to the public sector; and much more. Will benefit both public management practitioners and students of public administration and management.

November 1993|Jossey-Bass|Steven Cohen, Ronald Brand

This groundbreaking book sheds light on applying TQM in the real world of government organizations. Drawing on extensive research and their own school of hard knocks experience implementing TQM, Steven Cohen and Ronald Brand present straightforward, practical advice on implementing TQM in government settings. They cite examples of successes in specific government agencies--including the Treasury Department, U.S. Air Force, and Department of Veteran Affairs--to reveal how the principles of TQM can be applied at all levels of government. And, they describe not only how to introduce TQM, but also how to overcome barriers to change, and make TQM a success story of any government agency. Numerous charts and diagrams show concretely how to apply the concepts and techniques of TQM within any governmental unit.

The authors offer case examples that detail what organizational changes--from modifications of clerical procedures to major alterations of agency policy--need to be implemented when TQM is introduced in government agencies.

November 1991|Westview Press|Steven Cohen, Sheldon Kamieniecki

Presents a workable approach for implementing hazardous materials regulation. Focusing on the development of comprehensive tactical plans, the authors, both veteran researchers of the EPA's regulatory procedures, offer a blueprint for future environmental management programmes.


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