Studies of adaptive management of natural resources are increasingly focusing on the role of bridging organizations that can connect various actors and knowledge systems through some form of strategic bridging process. However, empirical investigations of the process of bridging and the conditions that foster collaborative learning are limited. In this paper, we examined how the idea of sustainability can be used to build bridges among stakeholders and how participatory action research (PAR) can bridge academic research and practical actions to facilitate communication and collaboration among multi-level partners to deal with abrupt changes and uncertainty in socioecological systems. We focus on the process and strategies for post-disaster recovery and sustainable development of the Adiri community of the Rukai people living in Pingtung, Taiwan after the 2009 Typhoon Morakot. We found that the concept of sustainability provided common ground for intercultural communication among the Adiri community, university partners, and government agencies. More importantly, PAR offered a practical framework to bridge gaps between ideas and actions. The cycles of collaborative observation, planning, action, and reflection in PAR could be understood as processes of social learning for all partners to deal with new problems that emerged.Constant communication and tangible results of action taken were crucial for building and maintaining trust.