Anticipated impacts from climate change act as stressors that motivate adaptation strategy development. And, while climate science projections extend from the global to regional scale, they can leave significant uncertainty at the local scale. In many jurisdictions, governance and environmental management professionals formulate and distribute information to guide climate change policy and preparation. In many rural or otherwise marginalized areas, however, relationships needed to promote clear understanding of impacts and to tackle cooperative adaptation planning alongside residents are lacking. This paper discusses methods used by an interdisciplinary group of scientists to help a small community of rural coastal U.S. residents enhance their climate resilience. This was accomplished via participatory collaborative science and collaborative learning processes that facilitated relationships of trust among a broad group of stakeholders. Data gathered from our network and analyses of project activities show the benefits of collaboration across a social network representing the social-ecological system. The success of our efforts is evident in five ways: a) in localized application of climate and environmental knowledge, b) in building two-way knowledge across the local/ non-local divide, c) in incorporating local community values, d) developing trust between residents, scientists, and environmental governance and management professionals, and c) in lessons learned transitioning from a learning to decision making process. We strongly advocate those working with local groups on adaptation planning efforts begin with methods that help build knowledge, respect, trust, and capacity amongst residents.