This paper explores the concept of communities as complex adaptive systems in the context of violence against women (VAW) prevention. Using thematic network analysis on data from 80 semi-structured interviews with community members in Samoa, we found that communities exhibit many properties of complex adaptive systems. Within nested systems, diverse and dynamic agents interact based on their knowledge and attitudes, which changes over time, leading to emergent and unpredictable outcomes. The functioning of communities and their response to VAW is a product of non-linear and emerging relationships and interactions between systems components at the community level. The approach we propose for conceptualising communities as complex adaptive systems provides a structured method for designing and evaluating community-based interventions that are grounded in the local context and existing resources. With in-depth knowledge of how a community works, interventions can be better equipped to address wicked problems such as VAW.