The Vine Changes Format, But Not Its Focus

Salon Series Goes Beyond Homebuilders to Examine Community

By Michael Castillo

PCBC won’t be the only conference to see changes this year. The Vine will debut a new salon-style workshop this month, making it easier for members and sponsors to participate in the face of tough economic conditions.

The first in a series of salons was to take place Nov. 17 and was created by IDEO, an innovation and design firm that uses a human-centered, design-based approach to help organizations and businesses innovate and grow. The sold-out event was hosted by IDEO at the firm’s headquarters in Palo Alto and will focus on user-based design solutions to meet the challenges of community.

Beginning in 2006, The Vine has been offered as a three-day conference bringing together some of the best and brightest to brainstorm and collaborate on new ideas that help explore the nature and future of community. While coordinated by the same team that puts on PCBC, The Vine is not limited to the homebuilding industry. Thought leaders from all walks of life are welcome to share their ideas with the goal of rethinking the underlying principles of a healthy and vibrant community, and using this new-found knowledge to create better places to live.

Greg Fuson, Vice President of Content Development, said the traditional three-day format wouldn’t have been a realistic undertaking in the current economic climate.

“In a year of tight calendars and even tighter budgets, we really wanted to make it more accessible and cost-effective,” said Fuson. “We didn’t want to take a year off and we didn’t want to substitute an online webinar in the place of real human interaction.”

Enter The Vine Salon series.

Salons will be smaller, shorter and more accessible but will still provide the rich content and meaningful exchanges that participants have come to expect from the three-day conferences, Fuson said.

“The Vine will always be unique and thought provoking in that it questions traditional ways of thinking about community creation, but now in a more bite-sized fashion,” said Fuson. “At a time when so many companies are trying to re-invent their businesses for a new economic reality and new patterns of development, The Vine helps you get there faster by connecting you with smart, creative people from outside your usual world.

“Ultimately, our goal is to tap new sources of creativity that will inspire better solutions.”

Led by IDEO’s Smart Space practice, the first salon workshop was to include a series of consumer profiles based on the life circumstances of real people. Using insights gained from these exercises, the groups imagined and prototyped community solutions in response to expressed needs and desires with the goal of helping attendees become more consumer oriented.

The program also included a tour of the company’s headquarters, providing an inside look at the space and process IDEO uses to create breakthrough innovations.

“This is a rare opportunity to go inside the world’s most celebrated design firm and participate in a collaborative, rapid-prototyping, design-thinking process as it’s brought to bear on the mission of The Vine,” said Fuson. “That is, to discover new ways of creating vital, human-centered, sustainable communities.”

Because the event sold out months in advance and had a growing waiting list, a second salon has been scheduled for March 2, 2010, also hosted by IDEO. The event will be limited to 65 people and is expected to fill up.

The Vine Salon Series is sponsored by James Hardie and Target Corp., which Fuson said underscores the notion that The Vine’s scope is much broader than homebuilding.

“Inspired people create inspired places, and vice versa,” said Fuson. “It’s not just about homes and neighborhoods, but bigger, broader, more holistic ways of thinking about healthy community. And that’s the premise of The Vine.”

For more information and to register for the next salon, visit

Michael Castillo is CBIA’s Communications Manager. He can be reached at