Participation is advocated by political leaders as crucial for enhancing social responsibility, building social capital, improving public services, qualifying for full citizenship and for enabling local democratic participation. Despite this increased commitment to encouraging public participation, however, there remains a lack of understanding of what motivates individuals to become community activists. This analysis of urban regeneration confirms that participation is a minority sport reflecting the reluctance and/or inability of the majority of community members to engage. The motives for that minority of local people who do engage are, therefore, important for policy-makers and academics to understand. This research project in east Manchester reveals that the motives of activists are varied and more nuanced than is proposed by existing social science theories such as rational choice, social network theory or the application of such concepts as citizen-consumers. A hybridized model which privileges social network theory without, however, entirely excluding ideas of the consumer-citizen and rational choice is advocated as a more effective way of explaining both community activism and also the varying levels and durability of individual participation. If participation is to increase, however, it is vital that the nuanced motives of participants are better appreciated.