This account reflects on potential challenges and benefits of designing and conducting a research project with ‘local’ practitioners. The collaboration with local practitioners provided a surprising mix of challenges and opportunities. It reveals that operational agencies often collaborate or conduct research or assessments for their own purposes and are often biased due to limited research capacity, untested presuppositions, or a strong (and understandable) desire to ensure that their results affirm a need which the relevant agency can help to address. That said, operational agencies often bring with them extensive knowledge about the geographical and human environments that can assist in designing a survey and negotiating access to difficult and potentially hostile communities. While somewhat compromised, the data produced by this sampling strategy and collaboration is powerful and useful in revealing—and challenging widely-held assumptions about—differences in socio-economic and safety vulnerabilities among groups and sub-places sampled.