The notion of 'transition' as used to describe the recent drawdown of the decade-long Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) provides an obvious departure point for considering what other transformations - social, political and economic - are under way in the archipelagic nation. Yet the contributions to this special issue collectively reject the teleological language of transition and transformation deployed by many development actors in favour of a more nuanced and historically informed understanding of the central dialect between change and continuity, with change in Solomon Islands occurring slowly and in distinctly non-linear ways. This dialectic is traced and interrogated in various ways by the contributors to this issue. One broad theme concerns the contested narratives of changing state-society relations and, in particular, those between the central government and the rural localities where most Solomon Islanders continue to reside. Another is the changing social relations around land and natural resources engendered by ongoing processes of globalisation and persistent patterns of demographic change, migration and urbanisation. These and other processes of historical change, including state formation and capital accumulation, are also shaped by the enduring realities of scale and distance integral to Solomon Islands archipelagic geography. In this essay we explore these themes of change and continuity in Solomon Islands, positioning the individual contributions within this larger trajectory of slow-paced and distinctly non-linear change. Drawing heuristically on RAMSI's genesis in the statebuilding moment that dominated international relations during the first decade of this century, we also examine the distinction between 'state-building' and 'state formation' in the Solomon Islands context and, in doing so, contrast the tropes of state failure, weakness and fragility against narratives of resilience, tenacity, innovation and experimentation.