The COVID-19 pandemic pushed people and organizations to do things differently—and join forces where possible. Tammy Freeman and MITRE’s Social Impact team did just that when they collaborated with a DC-area nonprofit to help combat childhood hunger.
MITRE employees take our mission of solving problems for a safer world to heart—and to their communities. Our "In the Community" series highlights the many ways our people make a difference in neighborhoods across the country and around the globe.
Select stories feature employees lending their time, talent, and heart to the fight against COVID-19. The pandemic moved MITRE’s Tammy Freeman and colleagues to pilot a program to offer MITRE’s systems thinking and problem-solving expertise to organizations helping neighbors in need.
Tammy Freeman: My experiences as a social impact volunteer in Brazil and Kenya helped me see the world and the challenges we face through a different lens. I learned to leverage my professional skills to support better outcomes for communities and society. Through this experience, I was deeply immersed in the fields of social impact and innovation, design thinking, and lean startup.
I realized MITRE employees could use our professional skills and volunteer our expertise to support mission-driven organizations. MITRE already does great work for our communities, so this idea expands on that.
2020 was a good time to pilot the program, especially to help nonprofits supporting people during COVID-19. Camila Acevedo was an intern at the time, and she volunteered to get it off the ground.
Camila Acevedo: I met the Social Impact Consulting Program team during my time as an intern. I liked building relationships with colleagues on a socially impactful project.
Lia Tishkoff: I joined MITRE during the pandemic, and the program was a way to connect while giving back to my community. It also helped me grow as a leader and learn from my teammates.
Heads Together for Action
Freeman: I connected with the Prince William County (Virginia) Community Foundation [PWCCF] through someone in my network. I was impressed at their impact and how they were responding to community needs during the pandemic. [Note: Prince William County is a suburb of D.C. and the second most populous county in Virginia.]
I was candid with the executive director, explaining that the Social Impact Consulting Program was a pilot. We needed to set realistic expectations.
Together, we determined we’d develop a digital handbook for the PWCCF Combatting Hunger on Wheels, or C.H.O.W. Wagon. C.H.O.W.’s goal is to help feed the 14,000 kids in the county who face hunger every day. The pandemic made this problem even worse. The program needed a resource for volunteers and organizations looking to establish their own programs to fight food insecurity.
Tishkoff: PWCCF wanted to help other nonprofits replicate the C.H.O.W. initiative, so the handbook had to detail all the resources and activities to set up a similar project.
Andy Roehl: Our team worked closely with PWCCF to develop the scope of the project and shape our goal. This made it a collaborative process and ensured the PWCCF would value the final product.
It was work-shaping in action—aligning an organization’s business and operational needs to make sure it has the right people and skillsets to get things done efficiently and effectively. We do this routinely in our sponsor work.
Heather Cogdell: We were all working together for the first time, and just starting to navigate the virtual environment. We relied on our communication skills and collaboration tools like Teams and Mural.
A Step into the Unknown Yields a Positive Outcome
Acevedo: PWCCF was thrilled with the handbook. In addition to “WOW!” the executive director told us they would immediately use our recommendations.
Cogdell: It was satisfying to know our work product was helpful right away. PWCCF had a need, and we were able to help them meet it.
Freeman: We learned a great deal, and those lessons will be incorporated into the next phase of the Social Innovation Focus Area [part of MITRE’s Social Justice Platform].
I’m grateful to the team for stepping up and stepping into the unknown. They brought their best to the pilot and to PWCCF. I’m also thankful to MITRE leadership for taking a risk and being willing to test something unproven, which helps seed innovation and bold thinking.
Tishkoff: I had the incredible opportunity to provide my consulting expertise to PWCCF through our volunteer program [40 hours of paid time annually for volunteering]. MITRE truly encourages all of us to pursue projects that align with our skills and passions.
—by Tammy Freeman, Camila Acevedo, Lia Tishkoff, Andy Roehl, and Heather Cogdell, as told to Nancy Romps
Inclusion and diversity have long been key elements of our culture. MITRE is committed to leading the way to a strong future through community involvement and volunteerism, locally and nationally, and we offer 40 hours of paid time to employees to volunteer during the workday for causes they care about. Learn more about working with us.