The Technical Outreach Services for Communities (TOSC) program is a unique university-based community outreach and “hybrid” technical assistance program designed to assist communities affected by hazardous waste problems. A distinct feature of the TOSC program is that it provides an alternate, independent source of technical assistance on demand, that is flexible and tailored to the identified needs of the community. Highlighted are two case studies depicting the challenges that the TOSC team faces in providing “neutral” technical assistance to communities. The results of these experiences demonstrate that scientists, engineers, and others working with communities first must be willing to engage in interdisciplinary teamwork, as problems are highly complex, often political, and require expertise across disciplines. Second, TOSC technical assistance efforts have been more successful when the scientific issues are framed in a community-specific cultural context. Third, it is necessary for the technical assistance team to improve their understanding of how communities work, to develop relationships with a broad base of affected stakeholders, and to gather the residents' perspectives of the issues and concerns facing the community. Finally, it is important that those providing technical assistance resist the temptation to offer generic scientific or engineering solutions for highly local problems, but rather focus on educating and empowering the community to make its own decisions regarding environmental cleanup.