The mixed outcomes of seemingly well-intentioned partnerships that try to create mutually beneficial agreements between local communities and private firms remain a puzzle. This study looks for answers to this puzzle by reviewing a large number of empirical studies in a wide variety of contexts. The kinds of local skills and expertise that are important for good timber concession management, how local people and concession managers can construct mutually profitable relationships, the most effective strategies used by communities to defend their claims in conflicts with private firms, and the types of public policies that are supportive of more equitable terms of cooperation in forest concession management are issues that were examined in the review. Institutional arrangements that regulate the relationship between local communities and forest concessionaires, and particularly the distribution of de jure property rights, help explain the mixed results. Less conclusive evidence exists with regards to community perspectives on concession-community relationships. The study concludes by suggesting future directions for research and discusses the implications of the findings for public policy.