Online communities are an important source of distributed intelligence and novelty for any firm. Their evolving independence exhibits purpose and progress of the individuals in them. However, research on community innovation is disparate, with literature enshrouded in macroperspectives of a firm's largest external source of innovation. Utilizing critical interpretive synthesis, we uncover three dominant perspectives in literature on community innovation—namely, outside-in, epistemic and competitive. We then propose a multilevel perspective of communities to explore three levels of innovation context. In closing, we examine a missing mesoperspective in literature and present four dynamic stages of exchange in communities—(i) convergence and design, (ii) interaction, (iii) interchange and (iv) productive synergy. With this final and main contribution, we apply a conceptual multilevel perspective to the same sample of 132 articles, previously used to demonstrate the three dominant macroperspectives. In doing so, we reconceptualize diversified knowledge in community literature and acknowledge the innovation context of independent individuals and groups in the community. We hope that scholars of open innovation use variations of the multilevel perspective for further theory construction as a lens into the context of innovation for individual, group and community innovation outcomes. The interconnectivity brought by these levels also creates challenges and opportunities for practitioners, wishing to engage with or design online communities to influence individual, group and community outcomes and motivations.