Beginning in 1996, Joel served as a consultant to LISC Chicago’s Futures Committee, an eighteen month effort to address fundamental concerns in the city’s community development field. In its summary report, Changing The Way We Do Things: Recommendations and Findings of the Futures Committee, the Committee suggested a new vision for the field, stating that:
What makes a community healthy is its ability to manage or govern itself, both formally and informally, on its own behalf and on behalf of the wider community. American civil society depends upon this ability and nowhere is this more evident, more practical and more necessary than at the local community level.
The Committee’s vision emphasized an important notion: that for communities to thrive, interventions must go beyond creating and preserving affordable housing, but instead they must be locally driven efforts to address a vast array of economic and social issues in a coordinated and comprehensive fashion.
The Futures Committee’s vision eventually led to the implementation of LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program, a 10-year comprehensive community development effort in 20 communities, and later served as the model for LISC’s Building Sustainable Communities initiative in 30 cities across the nation.