The policy-practice dimension often presents challenges particularly in the policy arena of child well-being. Policy designers identify risk factors and design programmes intended to develop protective factors in areas of need. The 2004 Australian Communities for Children (CfC) initiative aimed to improve the social, health and educational outcomes for young children living in socio-economically disadvantaged localities. Its method was to engage local community members to contribute towards developing protective factors. Rather than considering this national-local arrangement, an unworkable alliance, we examine the performance of CfC through three examples and demonstrate how resilience theory and action research can assist this programme achieve its social inclusion aims and well-being outcomes. We choose not to disregard policy programmes like CfC, rather we emphasize the possibilities offered when working these complex spaces involving multiple and inherent contradictions. The spaces that often exist between the policy and its implementation are rethought to allow a greater opportunity for the growth of innovation and change. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.