Community participation has become the new orthodoxy within urban regeneration policy in the UK. Yet, it remains a perennial problem for policymakers, especially at the neighbourhood level. A major reason for this, it is argued, is that policymakers often set up local partnerships with insufficient knowledge of the ‘culture’ (i.e. structure, processes, practices, relations and agents) of the neighbourhoods and communities they seek to regenerate and involve in decision-making. Furthermore, policymakers also lack a critically reflective understanding of their own cultural practices. It is argued that collaborative planning theory and applied ethnography offer policymakers a way forward in realising more effective community participation. Collaborative planning and applied ethnography provide a governance and methodological framework that have the potential to promote inclusionary argumentation and consensus building, and give partnership stakeholders an opportunity to become more aware and critically reflective of their cultural relations, practices and processes, thus paving the way forward for more effective community participation.