Sunderland has welcomed civic leaders from across the country, as it hosted a conference showcasing the importance of working with communities to shape plans.

The Cooperative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN) held its Annual Conference at Sunderland City Council’s City Hall, with two days filled with insightful discussions and networking opportunities, that are focused on the power of cooperation between local authorities and residents.

The event, which ran on November 1 and 2, saw council leaders and executives arrive in the city to learn how Sunderland is engaging effectively with residents and organisations to drive improved social and economic outcomes and deliver a place in which every person can realise their potential.

The conference explored a range of topics – from social value and its power to unlock opportunities for communities, to developing alliances that support the resilience of the voluntary and community sector – as well as looking into some specific examples of best practice in Sunderland.

Councillor Graeme Miller leader of Sunderland City Council, who welcomed delegates, said: “It’s a real honour to host the CCIN Annual Conference, an event that really shapes the thinking of progressive, cooperative towns and cities – and businesses – across the UK.

“We are a listening council and we have found new and innovative ways to engage with our residents and businesses that we know are driving positive outcomes for people in this city.

“To be able to share our experiences, learn from others and show off our wonderful city by the sea is a privilege.”

More than 135 councils, organisations and supporters from across the UK are part of the CCIN, with many attending the event and staying in the city overnight.

As part of the conference, delegates visited social enterprises in the city including the Sunshine Co-operative, Pop Recs, Bishopwearmouth Co-operative and Hylton Castle.

Councillor Paul Stewart, cabinet secretary at Sunderland City Council, said: “We have some wonderful cooperatives and social enterprises here, and they do so much to support the work of the council and the voluntary sector in Sunderland.

“To be able to shine a light on their amazing work and to celebrate the cooperative approach we are taking as a council to ensuring our residents are well supported is fantastic.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, CCIN chair, said: “We were delighted that Sunderland City Council offered to host our 2023 Conference.

“It’s been almost a decade since we were last here in 2014 and the skyline is unrecognisable.  City Hall, its proximity to the conference hotel, and the Riverside Developments have made the logistics really easy for our delegates.  We thoroughly enjoyed the Sunderland welcome and the cultural programme on our first day.”

“As the fastest-growing Network in Local Government, this conference has been a wonderful showcase for cooperative working across the country and has set a new bar in our annual conference planning.  Thank you, Sunderland.”

The event is one of an increasing number of national conferences being staged at the award-winning City Hall, which is regarded as an exemplar civic building at the heart of the UK’s most ambitious regeneration scheme, Riverside Sunderland.