This is tough, because it depends on the community. I like to stop first at the visitors center, ask questions and pick up brochures and information, go to the local library, read the local newspapers including alternative weeklies and other publications, check out traditional commercial districts and neighborhoods, bookstores, etc.
As it becomes harder and harder to find "third places," especially ones that question the mainstream, think of places like Red Emma's Bookshop and Cafe
in Baltimore or an independent coffee shop, it becomes harder for progressives to organize.
I think that one way to find out about those kinds of things in a community (besides bulletin boards at local college student unions, kiosks, and classroom buildings) can be the bulletin board at the local independent coffee shop. In Richmond, Virginia, that's a place like Lamplighter Roasting Company
(which also has great lox bagels and other food items). Not Starbucks.
Bulletin board, Lamplighter Coffee Roasters, Richmond. On the board are flyers promoting various interesting community initiatives including urban agriculture, art programs like a support center for printmakers, bicycling-related initiatives, etc.
As retail businesses chains up, the ability for "local" retail establishments to serve as a third place and a central information point concerning civic and community affairs becomes constrained.
Labels: civic engagement, community organizations, community organizing, cultural heritage/tourism, media and communications, progressive urban political agenda, urban design/placemaking