The contention posed by Rod Rhodes that policy is made and delivered by autonomous and self-organising policy networks is at the heart of many contemporary debates about the nature of policy and politics. However, while the concept has commanded considerable attention from policy theorists, case studies of how policy networks operate on the ground remain relatively rare. Further still, much of the empirical work has centred on testing relatively abstract claims about the nature of networks rather than thinking through their practical implications for governance. Here, we contrast the approaches taken by two English local authorities in seeking more participatory approaches to environmental policy-making. Building on the work of Kickert et al., we argue that - far from being self-organising - the form of policy networks can be strongly directed by the state through network activation strategies and, indeed, that strong state management of networks is required if policy-making is to proceed in a more inclusive manner. Indeed, we argue that when policy-making is viewed from a network governance perspective the most effective routes to participatory policy-making may rely heavily on manipulation strategies despite the fact that these are frequently described as weaker (or lower) forms of participation. This apparent compromise of participatory objectives may be required to ensure effective policy development.