Despite forty years of research, community sector service providers still find operationalising participation in their practice confusing and difficult. This paper presents the results of a preliminary study that begins to question why this is so and what can be done about it? The study examines the meaning and importance of participation determined by a review of the academic literature, by soliciting feedback from a range of stakeholders in community sector organisations, including service users with complex barriers to participation, staff, and board members. The participants’ perspectives, views and experience of participation were obtained through the use of semi-structured interviews. The data generated a number of telling examples of the impact organisational culture has on service delivery and how the values of the leadership shape the organization, as well as illustrations of the principles that underpin participation expressed from the standpoints of the three participant groups. Study findings underscore the critical importance for service providers to consider their culture and its influences.