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A Time to Act: How the Argo Team is Responding to the Pandemic With Action

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Everything we do at Argo AI is about helping people. Those who know me personally know that I am passionate about the company’s purpose to make getting around cities safer for all.

Yet, just because Argo’s technology will ultimately benefit society, we can’t sit on the sidelines when our country is in crisis now. Giving back is part of the very fiber of this company. Since we launched in 2016, I’ve been proud to see how employees at every level of our organization have devoted not just their time and money, but also their incredible ingenuity to helping those in need.

It goes without saying that the spring of 2020 has been one of the most trying times in recent memory. We’ve all felt a mix of fear and helplessness as we’ve watched an unprecedented pandemic claim so many lives and paralyze society. And, more recently, those feelings have given way to outrage as we’ve absorbed the shocking video of George Floyd’s death in police custody, and the historic wave of protests that tragedy has set off against the racial injustice that continues to plague society.

As a company, Argo stands with the Black community. Embracing the differences that makes us stronger is one of our core values. We are committed to continuing the work to be a diverse, inclusive workplace, and combat the systemic racism, discrimination, and intolerance racial and ethnic minorities have endured for too long.

During this extraordinarily difficult time, we’ve adapted our workflow to keep pursuing our core mission around safety and trust while making sure all of our employees — and especially employees of color — have the support they need to grieve, to make their voices heard, to take care of their loved ones, and to get help if necessary. We’ve also devoted time and resources to helping those in need outside the Argo family.

Our actions have taken many forms. At home in Pittsburgh, we’ve lent our self-driving test vehicles, route planning, and fleet operations expertise to an amazing local effort to transport thousands of much-needed COVID-19 test kits to and from low-income health centers around Allegheny County, in conjunction with the Allegheny County Health Department, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the medical testing company Curative, Inc.

An Argo AI test manager preparing the delivery of COVID-19 tests to the Allegheny County Health Department.

Led by our Palo Alto team, we are working with Citizen Schools, an organization which provides hands-on learning and career counseling to students both during and after school. As school closings across the country disproportionately impacted students in our nation’s most underserved communities, Citizen Schools ramped up a new series of remote learning opportunities. Argo volunteers are filming Career Pathway videos to share advice, mentorship, and offer inspiration to students to advance STEM careers and help the organization close the education gap exacerbated by the pandemic.

While we try to give back as a company, I know that our contributions don’t end when the workday is over. Last month, we felt we should come together to inspire team members to give back in their personal lives by raising awareness for organizations and opportunities that our team is passionate about. Our leadership team launched a “Month of Giving” initiative to showcase charitable organizations that are close to our hearts, and in turn, encourage our collective team to share the causes they support. The point wasn’t to identify who was giving — as the submission process was anonymous — but to help us get to know each other a little better by sharing the causes we care about. While we suspected that Argo teammates were charitable by nature, we had no idea just how many employees donated their own time or money to help others.

In the month of May alone, we learned that our employees gave more than 300 hours and $45,000 toward various causes. Their contributions ranged from supporting local food banks, like 412 Food Rescue, and pandemic relief funds, to donating to Doctors Without Borders, to organizing an Argo team to join the Folding@home crowd-sourcing project by donating spare graphics processing power on their personal computers to help researchers perform protein simulations that might lead to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

One of the most outstanding submissions to our Month of Giving was made by an employee who donated many hours of his free time to write a grant proposal for Jada House, a non-profit that provides food, career and health services to one of the most underserved communities in the Pittsburgh area. At last month’s all-hands meeting, I shared the story of the $100,000 grant that Jada House received — a grant that arrived at a critical moment, right at the outset of the pandemic. At the time, I didn’t know who authored the submission, but I wanted it celebrated so they could hear how proud I was of their efforts.

Ultimately the employee reached out, even though he didn’t hear my praise in the meeting, since he was busy volunteering even more of his time by delivering COVID-19 test kits in one of Argo’s self-driving test vehicles, while suited up in full personal protective equipment. For him, as for all of us, the honor of giving is its own reward. That feels especially true right now.

That said, we acknowledge there is much more we can all do. We will continue our social responsibility efforts, support important causes that progress a future of equality and justice, bring in outside speakers to educate and inform our team, and amplify the voices of minority and marginalized groups to help better ourselves as individuals, colleagues, and as a company.

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