Joel Bookman believes that community residents have the right and the responsibility to participate in the decisions that affect them. For more than three decades, he has led community-based organizing, economic development, planning, and comprehensive community development efforts that embody those principles. 

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.

Comprehensive Community Development on Chicago’s Northwest Side

Communities with healthy economies contain businesses that serve both the needs of residents and markets that reach beyond their borders. Healthy communities offer economic opportunity for residents to become producers, as well as consumers, through participation in the work force or entrepreneurial activity.

Whether guiding industrial development initiatives in Jacksonville’s Rail Yard District, Duluth Lincoln Park’s Craft Business District, or as a consultant to LISC MetroEdge market analysis and commercial corridor strategy assistance in Phoenix, San Diego, or Richmond, Bookman Associates combines decades of experience with sound data and on-the-ground analysis to engage stakeholders in strategies that connect low- and moderate-income communities and their assets to the economic mainstream of their regions.

Commercial Corridor Revival in Richmond

The Internet is littered with pretty plans for community improvement that have never been realized. Glossy, four-color documents that gather dust on bookshelves don’t transform communities. Engaged stakeholders, bold visions, concrete objectives with measurable outcomes, and early-action projects that produce visible results: those are the elements of a strategic plan that mobilizes communities, businesses, and investors to act.

That’s the formula fine-tuned by LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program and its director Joel Bookman in 20 Chicago neighborhoods, in “Quality-of-Life” plans that mobilized hundreds of stakeholders to take control of the future of their communities and inspire thousands more to action.

That, and work plans, that spelled out responsibilities, resources, timelines, and a system of community accountability within the plans that kept everyone informed – and on track.

Community Planning in Mesa

Strategic Planning by Joel Bookman in Chicago Communities

Bookman Associates specializes in training and coaching the leaders and staff of community development organizations in going from planning to implementation – Getting It Done. 

Using a curriculum designed during his tenure as managing director of the Institute for Comprehensive Community Development, Joel Bookman provides coaching for executive directors and community and economic development managers, as well as offering staff training and project management advice to transform great ideas into successful outcomes: visible, effective projects and programs that produce positive community changes.

When one-on-one advice is needed, Joel listens. He is available to discuss project development, organizational management, and board relations in a collegial and respectful manner. A regular check-in via phone or videoconference can be scheduled to offer policy guidance, best practices, or simply to share thoughts and develop strategy.

Here is a sampling of some recent training and coaching sessions led by Bookman Associates:

  • The Five Most Important Actions You Can Take to Jump Start Your Commercial Corridor
  • How to Show Results Quickly and Create Excitement
  • Three Commercial District Success Stories and How You Can Be Next
  • Linking Neighborhood Assets to Growth Clusters in the Regional Economy
  • Project Management: Going from Planning to Implementation 

10 Commandments of a Good Neighborhood Tour