Institute for Environmental Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

The Resilience Adaptation Feasibility Tool (The RAFT)

The Goal of The Resilience Adaptation Feasibility Tool (The RAFT)

To help Virginia’s coastal localities improve resilience to flooding and other coastal storm hazards while remaining economically and socially viable. 

What is The RAFT?

The RAFT is a “full service” tool to assist coastal localities to increase their resilience. Coastal resilience is the capacity to anticipate threats, reduce the community’s vulnerability, repond to, and recover from hazardous events and chronic stresses. A community can be vulnerable not only due to their physical location and infrastructure, but also due to social factors with the community, such as access to transportation or medical fragility. A resilient community is one that is able to adapt, endure, and thrive in the face of change, uncertainty and adversity – from being prepared for hurricanes to having policies that encourage appropriate land uses in the flood zone. To build resilience, localities need capacities in the areas of emergency management, infrastructure, planning, policy, and community well-being.


The RAFT was conceived and developed by an academic interdisciplinary collaborative, the “Core Team,” led by the University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN), the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC) at William & Mary Law School, and Old Dominion University/ Virginia Sea Grant (ODU). The RAFT features three key components that create a “full service” tool. 

Who is collaborating on The RAFT?

The Core Team is assisted by an Advisory Committee consisting of academic advisors as well as representatives of local governments, nonprofits, and state agencies. Academic advisors are drawn from the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech, College of William & Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and Louisiana State University with fields of study including architecture, landscape architecture, planning, environmental sciences, environmental psychology, engineering, and water quality. The Advisory Committee provided feedback and suggestions for indicators and measures throughout development of The RAFT Scorecard, developed criteria for selecting the first pilot communities, and selected the first three pilot communities. Throughout the process, the Advisory Committee offered edits and guidance, and it will continue to provide guidance in coming years.

In addition to the Advisory Committee, the Core Team convened two special focus groups. The first was composed of representatives of coastal local governments, nonprofits, and relevant state agencies, to “ground truth” The RAFT Scorecard. This was an opportunity to critically assess The RAFT and determine how to make it more relevant to Virginia’s coastal localities. The second was composed of nonprofits, academia, and community representatives who reviewed the Scorecard to determine if it sufficiently addressed social equity concerns.

Selection of Pilot Communities

Pilot communities were selected on the basis of several criteria, including a willingness to participate, demographic diversity, diversity in municipality type, density, size, varying stages in comprehensive planning, and physical vulnerability to coastal flooding. They were also selected from three different planning district commissions in Virginia to assess communities in different areas of the coastal region.