Exploring the interlinkages between institutions, community-based workers, and participants in the community-based management of water and HIV/AIDS home-based care in sub-Saharan Africa. Community participation and ownership are current paradigms for a majority of development interventions. This panel discusses community action in the context of such ideal types of ‘good practice’ in Tanzania and South Africa. Three papers will be presented to discuss the characteristics of community-based workers, the institutional environment in which such locally-based community activities are carried out, and the relation between such interventions and the participants and beneficiaries. Mechanisms of in and exclusion will be explored, accountability and ownership interrogated through a decentred and multidimensional analysis of development interventions. From this analysis, the current ‘consensus’ on the decentralised, facilitating state and the equity and sustainability of community action is found to be limited. Space for one more paper.