The purpose of this study was to examine one community-based, interagency policy effort from two contrasting perspectives: critical theory (modernist) and postmodernist. To illustrate this juxtaposition we explored neighbourhood resident participation in community-based interagency collaboration within the context of decentralization. Using qualitative methodology, we observed team meetings and interviewed participants. While community-based interagency collaboration could be considered an 'empowering' strategy for community residents, from poststructural perspectives it could be a way to maintain the status quo. Through the analysis, we unpack this dichotomy of critical versus poststructural perspectives - mpowerment versus the reinforcement of existing power relationships - by suggesting that poststructural perspectives of power can flow between residents and agency team members. We deconstruct the assumption that such a policy initiative is either empowering or constraining by suggesting it could be both for all participants involved.