The main objective of this paper is to provide empirical evidence on the mechanisms that shape the relationship between violent conflict and collective action. Conflict dynamics in Colombia allow us to exploit rich variation in armed group presence and individual participation in local organizations. Our identification strategy is based on the construction of contiguous-pairs of rural communities that share common socio-economic characteristics but differ in armed group presence. This allows us to control for unobservable variables that may affect local participation and conflict dynamics simultaneously. The results show that the presence of armed groups increases overall participation in local organizations, with a particularly strong effect on political organizations. Contrary to existing results, we find that stronger individual participation may arise from coercion exercised by armed groups and not from a more vibrant civil society.