What makes community forest management (CFM) work for forests and livelihoods? And how can policy help? To find out, the Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG) Vietnam undertook a survey in Dak Lak and Thua Thien Hue provinces between December 2006 and April 2007. The survey aimed to provide insights into different forms of CFM, the factors influencing successful CFM, and their contribution to poverty alleviation.Given the history and variety of CFM arrangements in Dak Lak and Thua Thien Hue, the survey focused on communities within these two provinces. Dak Lak is the first province in Vietnam in which forest land allocation (FLA) to local communities took place on a large scale, while Thua Thien Hue has examples of both official (i.e. government-introduced) CFM and traditional CFM systems. Altogether, 11 villages were covered in the survey. The five communities from Dak Lak all have official forms of CFM in place, while in Thua Thien Hue four villages practice official CFM and two have traditional CFM arrangements. This brief presents some major findings of the survey, focusing on three important issues: (i) the rigidity or lack of flexibility in the implementation of state policies; (ii) factors influencing the contribution of official CFM to poverty alleviation; and (iii) the role of external support in promoting CFM. Concerned stakeholders have already debated the findings in provincial and national workshops.