The need for an accurate understanding of the environment into which peace- and capacity-building missions are deployed cannot be overstated. Suppositions about the mission environment inform every facet of an intervention’s design and implementation, in addition to expectations surrounding success. Yet this critical element continues to be misunderstood by those most in need of an accurate grasp, a condition which severely undermines the war to peace transition. Rather than continuing to assume that recipient states are states in the Western sense of the term, we must instead focus our energies on how best to enable sustainable peace in the hybrid political orders which do in fact constitute these troubled places. After setting out the largely unrecognised characteristics of recipient societies, the article explores alternative forms of assistance with promise to complement such realities.