--- - |2 Abstract The term community has proved to be remarkably resilient in rural policy‐making, where it is used across a range of policy discourses. Policy narratives seldom acknowledge the multiple meanings associated with the term community; they therefore fail to make a distinction between community as it is experienced in everyday settings, and more formal community organising. However, policies and governance seeking to mobilise communities often rely on formal community organisations to represent the ‘community’ in multi‐level governance partnerships. Following research with two rural communities in Scotland this article explores different experiences of community, and sense of community in place. We then look at what these understandings and experiences of community mean for the creation and maintenance of formal, community‐led organisations, their inclusion in policies of community empowerment and resilience, and rural governance more widely. - 'Sociologia Ruralis, EarlyView. '