Gma Village wins 2015 Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award

Design Ignites Change and AIGA are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2015 Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award, Oakland, California’s Gma Village, developed by Maggie Ollove, Catalina Garcia, and Johnna Flood. In their winning application, which carries a $10,000 prize, the Gma Village team proposes a childcare service for low-income families that leverages the invaluable community resources of grandmothers to build a network of trained, trusted, and beloved local providers.

Sylvia Harris (1953–2011) is widely recognized as a pioneer, a generous mentor, and a vital inspiration to the field of social impact design. The eponymous award was introduced in 2014 and is presented by Worldstudio, the strategy and communications firm known for their work towards positive social change, and AIGA, in collaboration with Harris’s family, friends, and supporters, to honor her legacy by recognizing other vanguards dedicated to public design. It is awarded annually to celebrate a design project that enhances public life.

The Gma Village team, led by Ollove, a graduate of Parsons’ MFA Transdisciplinary Design program; Garcia, formerly a partner and creative director for a New York City design consultancy; and Flood, who has worked in the social sector engaging with communities to create and redesign programs, aim to deploy the grant to prototype the program across West Oakland through a participatory model that engages the community, and a partnership with Bananas, a nonprofit child care resource and referral agency that serves a wide range of families in the area.


The ambition of this project resonates clearly with Harris’s work and experiences. Gary Singer, Harris’s widower, explains:

“Our daughter was born three months premature at a pound and a half. It was a scary time. In order to ensure our daughter’s best chance of survival, we held her throughout the day, hours at a time in the hospital, so that this fetus could develop into a healthy child… At some point during the hospital days, Sylvia noticed many babies did not have the benefit of being held. Their parents were either working or unable to make it to the hospital for various reasons. Syl said one day, ‘Gary, when I retire, I’m coming back here to hold the babies who don’t have the chance of being held, just spending whole days holding them and rocking them and feeding them.’

The Gma Village is the embodiment of Sylvia’s intention. How wonderful. How unexpected.”

A jury with great expertise in major facets of social impact design selected the Gma Village project amongst a pool of highly innovative ideas. Jury members included: Humberto Arevalo, principal at erre architecture; David Gibson, co-founder and managing principal of Two Twelve; Chelsea Mauldin, executive director of the Public Policy Lab and Kyle Reis, of TechSoup Global.

Learn more about the Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award.