EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Managing participants, expectations and surprises during fieldwork – Experiences from collaborative flood risk management in Ghana

Britta Höllermann1 and Joshua Ntajal2
Britta Höllermann and Joshua Ntajal
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Osnabrück, Osnabrueck, Germany (
  • 2Department of Geography, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany (

The PARADeS project uses participatory approaches to contribute towards enhancing Ghana’s national flood disaster risk reduction and management strategy. The project was initiated by practitioners from Ghana and the problem setting was developed during a definition phase of the project. When the project started, commitment and strong partnership and involvement of partners were already established - a prerequisite for collaborative and non-extractive research.

Multiple workshops and focus group discussions were ‘successfully’ conducted in collaboration with our local partners. Despite the sound basis of the project (e.g. shared goal(s), strong and committed partnership), we experienced challenges before, during and post fieldwork. In this contribution, we particularly reflect and focus on including and managing different types of participants. On the one hand, we engaged with representatives from different governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations with mostly academic background during the workshops. On the other hand, flood-affected urban and rural citizens with strongly differing educational backgrounds and socio-economic assets elaborated on their flood experiences during the focus group discussions. Here, three main themes and challenges arose:

  • Selection of participants: Identifying blind spots of researchers and local partners, e.g. the risk of missing out marginalized voices,
  • Expectations management: Coping with expectations of participants and communicating own room of action, and
  • Feedback processes: Preventing extractive research by feedbacking information relevant to the participants

During the session, these themes are discussed using the guiding principles for fieldwork with participants (see Rangecroft et al. 2020) by highlighting ethics, communication, power dynamics and positionality. For this, we share our experiences and lessons learned e.g. how we deal with the problem of getting a gender balanced participant list or how we manage unexpected structures of focus groups. Furthermore, we would like to share our uneasiness when, for example, a focus group discussion turned into a community talk or unrealistic though understandable expectations were raised. By sharing our successes and pitfalls, we would like to contribute to a broader discussion on how to improve fieldwork, prepare for surprise and, especially, to meet expectations of participants, partners and researchers without compromising each other’s needs and integrity. 


Rangecroft, S., M. Rohse, E. W. Banks, R. Day, G. Di Baldassarre, T. Frommen, Y. Hayashi, B. Höllermann, K. Lebek, E. Mondino, M. Rusca, M. Wens and A. F. Van Loon (2020). "Guiding principles for hydrologists conducting interdisciplinary research and fieldwork with participants." Hydrological Sciences Journal: 1-12.

How to cite: Höllermann, B. and Ntajal, J.: Managing participants, expectations and surprises during fieldwork – Experiences from collaborative flood risk management in Ghana, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-207,, 2023.