The themes of collaboration and partnership lie at the heart of the vision of a range of UK initiatives designed to tackle social exclusion. However, the benefits are extolled and the costs to community groups are minimized. Some of the problems and possibilities for the involvement of community groups in partnerships are considered. Partnerships are characterized by processes of inclusion and exclusion, dominance and subordination and it is argued that attention must be paid to the structures and processes involved. New ways of thinking about representation are required, with priority given to including those with the least power who are nevertheless the most expert in identifying the needs of their own communities, if local action is going to reduce social exclusion.