The event, the first of its kind in Philadelphia - and the first of what organizers hope will become an annual event - is officially titled the Northwest Philadelphia Community Leadership Summit. It is designed to bring together the leaders of grass-roots organizations within the 14th Police District, the largest in the city.
Gathering Saturday and Sunday in the east parlor of a building on the grassy campus near the Montgomery County line will be representatives from such diverse neighborhoods as Germantown, Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, Ivy Hill and Stenton-Wadsworth.
Politicians, pointedly, have not been invited.
As a result, they have been clamoring to get in, according to some summit organizers.
"So many politicians have called to say, 'Hey, what are you up to?' "
said Marilyn Shane, president of West Mount Airy Neighbors.
Gwen Tucker, president of the Joint Community Council, said: "The reason politicians are so upset is that we said we didn't want them there. We are trying to empower people to solve their own problems."
The presence of elected officials, Tucker said, "changes the flavor of things. People start saying what they think the politicians want to hear."
Instead, organizers agreed, participants will work together on a report of the two-day event, identifying concerns and goals, that will be presented to political leaders a few weeks later.
Only those who have registered for the event will be admitted to the two- day summit, which will stress brainstorming and resource-sharing and will discourage, as one of the organizers put it, "needless pontificating."
Organizers mailed 400 invitations to neighborhood leaders, and at least 150 have confirmed that they will attend.
Planners of the summit include representatives from the Block Captains Association of Southwest Germantown, East and West Mount Airy Neighbors, Mount Airy Block Leaders, Concerned Wadsworth Neighbors, Joint Community Council, Chestnut Hill Community Association, Campus Boulevard Corporation, Northwest Task Force on Drugs and Northwest Victim Service.
At a planning session last Thursday night, organizers focused on nailing down such small but important details as locating blank newsprint, easels and marking pens for the brainstorming sessions, finding volunteers to stuff folders and determining the best time to announce where the exits and the bathrooms are.
Much attention was devoted to assigning each brainstorming group a leader, or facilitator. These leaders help people "get their points across in a clear and cogent way," Tucker said. "The issues and concerns of the people are the most important thing. But not everyone can speak well. So the facilitators will be cutting through feelings to get to the ideas and put them down on newsprint."
But while they ironed out nitty-gritty details, the organizers had nothing to say about precisely what issues would be addressed. That was because everyone wanted this summit to be truly a grass-roots event, with ideas flowing from the participants.
"Whatever comes out of this must come from the group, and not just the planners - who are self-appointed and self-anointed," Shane said.
Ideally, Tucker said, what will emerge could be a model for other citywide regional conferences.
"If anything can be a success," Tucker said, "it can be a success in the Northwest. We represent every strata of society, every race, every religion."
Still, Tucker harbors no illusions that organizing and holding together a group that spans the city's northwest region is going to be easy.
"This is the alpha," Tucker said. "It is not the omega."