In recent decades, natural resource management (NRM) has embraced community participation and engagement. Despite considerable literature addressing community participation, the tasks of negotiating and integrating diverse community interests, values, goals and boundaries remains a challenge for practitioners. Our view is that NRM discourse is hamstrung by a multitude of overlapping terms and excessive focus on place-based communities. In this paper, we critically review existing strands of community theory and draw on stakeholder analysis and actor-network theory to identify a more effective approach to decisions about who should be involved and how they might participate. We then offer a typology as a conceptual tool for understanding, organizing, mapping and analyzing communities. Examples from NRM in Australia's Murray-Darling Basin are provided to illustrate the potentially multi-scalar nature of communities and their significance in addressing environmental change. As part of our discussion, we highlight the need for further research into the inter-relationships of power and environmental agency. These inter-relationships can assist in uncovering how differing actors hold variable capacity to exercise power, authority and influence while attempting to implement environmental change within a network of interactions.