This paper explores the circumstances in which communities may effectively reduce risks. It draws on the example of two ‘Risk and Resilience Committees’ (RRCs) that were established in Nepal as part of an action research project: one in Panchkhal in the central region, operating as a community-based organisation (CBO); and the other in Dhankuta in the eastern region, embedded in municipal government. In-depth interviews were conducted with RRC members. Wider community preferences for risk reduction were examined through a questionnaire survey. In Dhankuta, the RRC obtained further funding, developed strong upward and downward institutional links, and applied a ‘disaster risk reduction lens’ to existing local government responsibilities. In Panchkhal, RRC activities have been limited by funding and have focused on the strengthening of livelihoods. It may be concluded tentatively that community-based disaster risk reduction activities are more successful when they are institutionally embedded in local government structures.