Introduction: Community mobilizing strategies are essential to health promotion and uptake of HIV prevention. However, there has been little conceptual work conducted to establish the core components of community mobilization, which are needed to guide HIV prevention programming and evaluation. Objectives: We aimed to identify the key domains of community mobilization (CM) essential to change health outcomes or behaviors, and to determine whether these hypothesized CM domains were relevant to a rural South African setting.Method:We studied social movements and community capacity, empowerment and development literatures, assessing common elements needed to operationalize HIV programs at a community level. After synthesizing these elements into six essential CM domains, we explored the salience of these CM domains qualitatively, through analysis of 10 key informant in-depth-interviews and seven focus groups in three villages in Bushbuckridge. Results: CM domains include: 1) shared concerns, 2) critical consciousness, 3) organizational structures/networks, 4) leadership (individual and/or institutional), 5) collective activities/actions, and 6) social cohesion. Qualitative data indicated that the proposed domains tapped into theoretically consistent constructs comprising aspects of CM processes. Some domains, extracted from largely Western theory, required little adaptation for the South African context; others translated less effortlessly. For example, critical consciousness to collectively question and resolve community challenges functioned as expected. However, organizations/networks, while essential, operated differently than originally hypothesized - not through formal organizations, but through diffuse family networks. Conclusions: To date, few community mobilizing efforts in HIV prevention have clearly defined the meaning and domains of CM prior to intervention design. We distilled six CM domains from the literature; all were pertinent to mobilization in rural South Africa. While some adaptation of specific domains is required, they provide an extremely valuable organizational tool to guide CM programming and evaluation of critically needed mobilizing initiatives in Southern Africa.