5 Stages of Committee Every Delegate Should Know

by Ryan on September 22, 2010

Last week, I wrote about the 5 Skills Every Delegate Should Learn. I described what those fundamental skills are and how they improved my performance in committee. But what really helped is knowing not just what to do, but when to do it, and that’s what I’m going to focus on in this article.

The goal of a committee is to pass a resolution on a given set of topics by the end of the conference. This does not happen randomly. There’s a certain flow to committee, when specific events have to take place before the committee can reach its goal of passing a resolution. Experienced delegates understand this and use it to their advantage.

Let’s walk through a typical Model UN conference. Your committee experience starts before the conference even begins, by doing your research. When you arrive to your committee room and your chair gavels open the first session, you line up with everyone else to make opening speeches. Soon, you’re going into unmoderated caucus, passing notes, and meeting people in the hall to form a caucus bloc, write a resolution, and submit it to the chair. You present and debate resolutions; combine and amend them; then go into voting bloc, where your committee will either reach or fail its goal. And you do it all again with the next topic and at the next conference.

We just went through a typical flow of committee, and it can be broken down into 5 stages:

  1. Pre-Conference Research — The weeks, days, and hours leading up to the conference when all you can do is research. Although in coming years, it might become more important to interact with your committee via social media before the conference even begins.
  2. Opening Speeches — The beginning of committee, when delegates give their first speeches and speak about policy.
  3. Caucusing — This stage typically begins with the first or second unmoderated caucus, when most of the committee has made their opening speeches and it becomes more important to find allies and form caucus blocs.
  4. Writing Resolutions — When caucus blocs have solidified and delegates are starting to write their resolutions.
  5. Debating Resolutions — After resolutions have been submitted to the chair for review and the committee is making speeches for and against resolutions.

This framework is helpful because knowing what stage the committee is in gives you an idea of what you need to do at that moment. There are several key takeaways about the 5 stages of committee:

Be aware of what stage the committee is in. Individual delegates can be at different stages than the rest of committee; this is more likely to happen with bigger committees than smaller ones. You know what stage the committee is in by seeing what other delegates are doing and taking hints from the chair. As an individual delegate, if you fall behind by taking too long to join a caucus bloc or start writing a resolution, the committee will move on without you.

Certain skills are more valuable at certain stages. This is why the 5 stages of committee purposefully reflect the 5 skills every delegate should learn. You want to know what stage you’re in and focus on those skills. For example, when I’m writing resolutions outside in the hall, I don’t worry about being on the speakers list or making comments during moderated caucus. During the Writing Resolutions stage, it’s more important to me to finish drafting resolutions because that’s more important to the chair. The delegates who are not writing resolutions are the ones making speeches, and the chair is listening to them because they need something to do. But the chair would rather have the committee finish drafting resolutions and start debating them.

Know how to transition between stages. Transition points are opportunities to stand out in committee. To continue my previous example, I return to the committee room after submitting resolutions and re-focus my attention on making speeches. Because I haven’t made any speeches lately, I’m more likely to be picked by the chair for the speakers list or a moderated caucus. I use this to my advantage by trying to be the first person in our caucus bloc to make a forceful speech about our resolution. This solidifies my position as a leader of my caucus bloc and, by extension, a leader in committee.

How you do in one stage affects how you’ll do in the next. Pre-Conference Research is the first stage and the foundation of your performance in committee. Your Opening Speeches influence how you will be perceived by other delegates during Caucusing. The quality of your caucus bloc influences the quality of your resolution, which influences how it will be debated in committee and whether it will pass.

Granted, there’s overlap between stages and skills. After finishing a topic and moving on to the next one, you’re going back to Opening Speeches. Public speaking is definitely an important skill during the Debating Resolutions stage. Some delegates do research throughout a conference.

But the 5 stages are intended to be a useful framework that provides a structure to your understanding of Model UN. It gives order to the chaos of committee. And if you understand it well, you can use it to your advantage and gain an edge in winning awards.

Do you agree with the 5 stages of committee? Give us your thoughts in the comments!

  • Nick

    I do agree with the 5 stages. I was always fascinated by two types of strong MUNers: the prepared and the BSers. The first group were the ones that were the most well-researched. They were able to take a leadership role and be noticed by being knowledgeable, having a binder of past resolutions and work, and thus, becoming indispensable. The serious MUNers that were perhaps more shy fell into this category a lot. The other type I was interested in (of course there are other types as well as hybrids) were ones that wouldn’t do research but would use other skills (such as speeches, ways to lead a conversation) and make use of a more timid but more-prepared persons research to be noticed and take the leadership role.

    • Ryan

      I agree that there are different approaches to winning awards, but I’ll bet on the more well-prepared delegate any day of the week. The key distinction you make is that the prepared delegates are less assertive than the charismatic ones. But a delegate who can combine preparation with charisma is a force to be reckoned with.

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  • Leonard

    If the majority of the delegates are reasonably well prepared and informed, is very difficult for BSers to win awards – at least the bigger ones, it is possible that a really great public speaker could clinch an honorable mention on a GA just by sheer charisma.

    If the delegate is charismatic and has great improvisation skills they can get away with a little bit less research than the rest. On the other hand a less charismatic individual can become an important leader inside committee by having great arguments backed by excellent facts on the subject. In a way, research is the great equalizer for anyone who is not naturally gifted.

    • http://bestdelegate.com Ryan

      Well put. Between two delegates of equal skill, depth of research and understanding of the topic will separate them.

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