NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Leaders in coastal regions like Hampton Roads are battling a flood of resiliency problems, but in the face of the storm there’s a group in Norfolk working to show the community that there’s a silver lining.
“I think what we’ve been able to do is to find solutions to our problems and demonstrate them and show the residents and the stakeholders in this region that there’s a silver lining,” said Dr. Paul Robinson, executive director of RISE. “That we can adapt and live with the situation, and there are ways around it.”
RISE is a nonprofit searching for solutions that will make communities more physically and economically resilient to climate change and rising seas. RISE has poured more than $5 million in state and federal funding into projects in Hampton Roads through its resilience challenges. Those include a course to strengthen the region’s home raising industry, technology that collects real-time data in Norfolk storm water drains, and a developing project with Waze that hopes to help residents avoid flooded roads.
“We award grants to challenge teams that give us a viable solutions, one that solves our problems here and that could be scaled to other communities,” Robinson said. “But also one that has a business plan. We need to know how they’re going to grow and become economically viable after they’ve spent the funding we give them.”
RISE is focused on addressing near-term resiliency issues and growing small businesses. RISE works with localities to identify resiliency problems that communities need solved, then the nonprofit designs challenges to solicit ideas from solution makers across the globe.
The process is competitive. Dozens of solution makers submit their proposals to RISE. The nonprofit can’t fund every good idea, so a committee whittles those proposals down to the best four or five solutions, then RISE funds their business plans. Companies test their solutions in Hampton Roads, and the region becomes more resilience in the process.
“We can’t stop the water, but there are some things that we can do to address the day-to-day issues and also mitigate the bigger stresses,” Robinson said.
RISE measures the success of each project in several ways, including that companies are meeting their business goals, creating jobs, and addressing the resiliency issues of the region. RISE also relies on feedback from impacted localities to determine if the solution is addressing their needs.
“The companies are working with city people, and the city people are the folks who are on the ground, the boots on the ground,” Robinson said. “They’re facing the problem day in and day out. This is something we can use. This is something that will make things better, make things easier. That’s a big metric for us.”
RISE is in the process of choosing competition winners for a brand new resiliency challenge that will address needs in rural communities, including flood management, protecting buildings and property and water quality management.