The research presented in this article employed a deliberate intervention to mobilize social capital and then studied the dynamics of the way in which it influenced community development. Whether or not social capital is able to facilitate development depends on the specific context in which it occurs. Although the general context of this study was that of small rural towns in Australia’s outback that are experiencing decline, each of the four towns studied had unique features which could influence the mobilization of social capital. Rural communities have the willingness and capacity to mobilize but whether this capacity is actualized may well depend on the presence of other mobilizing factors. Specifically the intervention study found that a structure needs to be in place which can take the initiative and work across the community — engaging a range of organizations. Second, the structure needs to be supported, but not controlled, by local government. Third, it needs the kind of social entrepreneurship that can sustain a community‐wide vision and bring together the diverse groups within the community.