Using an examination of three NGO interventions in post-conflict Burundi, this article questions community-based reconstruction as a mechanism to rebuild social capital after conflicts, particularly when direct livelihood support is provided. The authors demonstrate a general shortcoming of the methodology employed in community-based development (CBD), namely its focus on ‘technical procedural design’, which results in what may be termed ‘supply-driven demand-driven’ reconstruction. The findings suggest the need for a political economy perspective on social capital, which acknowledges that the effects on social capital are determined by the type of economic resource CBD gives access to. Through the use of a resource typology, the case studies show that the CBD methodology and the potential effects on social capital differ when applied to public and non-strategic versus private and strategic resources. This has particular consequences for post-conflict situations. A generalized application of CBD methodology to post-conflict reconstruction programmes fails to take adequate account of the nature of the interventions and the challenges posed by the particular post-conflict setting. The article therefore questions the current popular ‘social engineering’ approach to post-conflict reconstruction.