Challenging the Conventional Model UN Structure: Why Your School Should Think Outside the Box at PicSim

by lstefanos on January 11, 2014


With the height of the Model UN Season taking place in the fall, there’s a fair amount of room to pick and choose from available conferences in the spring. When deciding which conferences to attend, head delegates usually take into consideration size, location, and expert-level, but other than that, most conferences have a pretty standard structure. As part of a movement to encourage the continued evolution of Model UN as a “smart sport”, I was able to sit down with the Chairman of PicSim, Sukrit Puri, to give readers a reason to try something new to the old game we all love. Aside from taking place in the beautiful, historical town of Princeton, this conference offers a one of a kind experience, thriving social events, and phenomenal eating choices, Hoagie Haven anyone? Keep reading to find out more about PicSim and how you can register!

LS: PICSim is known for having a unique structure, from what I understand it’s kind of one large joint-crisis committee. Can you tell me  a little more about it?

SP: Moving from the High School circuit to the College level MUN circuit, there is a very noticeable shift in focus from larger GA committees to more action oriented crisis committees. A problem that arises with crisis committees is that they often tend to operate in a vacuum: it’s just a game the room plays with the Crisis Director. Joint Crisis Committees seek to offer a more realistic scenario, with one room’s actions informing the other room’s reactions. But still, we weren’t satisfied. PICSim was built on the philosophy of realism: we want to provide the most realistic committee experience, from the content to the other players in the universe. And so 11 years ago, Princeton Interactive Crisis Simulation was born; a twelve-way joint crisis committee, where each committee assumes the role of the Executive branch of a country, with delegates’ taking on the portfolios of members in their country’s government.

The idea is to plunge delegates into topics of domestic and multinational concerns, contextualized with bilateralism and multilateralism. If a country makes a policy decisions, it must know that its neighbors, allies, and enemies are watching.

To facilitate the complex network of multilateralism, we have a phenomenal MasterMind Team, which sits in the “War Room.” We have the MasterMind along with his Deputy MasterMinds, whose task is to oversee the crisis team dedicated to each country, and to develop a thematic progression of the crisis as the conference progresses. The MMTeam is additionally responsible for responding to individual delegates’ portfolio powers, providing content through engaging multimedia formats, and organizing summits or clandestine meetings between members from different countries.

Finally, to synchronize all content across the 12 committees, we make use of our homegrown multimedia system known as the Global News Network, the GNR. The GNR remains projected on the screen in every committee, and refreshes constantly as news updates alert the universe of the happenings. Using this technology, each committee can know what every other country is facing, and how they are reacting.

PICSim is a highly complex conference, with many moving parts, but it runs like clockwork. Content is beautifully unpredictable — as decided by the delegates themselves — and the MasterMind team can sometimes only watch as a 12-Way Game Theory experiment unfolds, much to the delight of the Economic Department, conveniently located next door to where PICSim is hosted, in the magnificent Woodrow Wilson School’s Robertson Hall!

LS: Very interesting, well we certainly can’t deny it’s complex! What are the committee sizes like? Is the conference run more like a large crisis or a smaller General Assembly?

SP: PICSim is structured as a 12-way joint crisis conference, with each PICSim focusing on a region of the world. We’ve previously done North Africa, Latin America, and most recently, Western Europe.
Each committee is about 12 people strong, plus the Chair who acts as the president or prime minister, depending on the nature of the respective executive branch. We feel it’s small enough to allow for meaningful discussion, and large enough to bring in varied points of views.
Of course, we don’t always restrict the committees to being countries. We have included the European Commission, for instance, as well. And this year, well, we have two secret committees only to be revealed later …

LS: From what I see, the conference topic this year is the Black Sea (in addition to those two secret committees, which I’m sure our readers are dying to hear more about). What are some of the ways you’ll be breaking down into committees and how will you emphasize the need to work in tandem with all the committees?

SP: We’ve chosen to focus on the other side of Europe this year, on the area surrounding the Black Sea. We’re calling it “Black Ops: Black Sea.” We’ve brought in a MasterMind Team uniquely qualified to bringing genuine insight into the region. Our MasterMind (MM), Tucker Jones, and one of the Deputy MMs, Jacob Sackett-Sanders, participated in Princeton’s Bridge Year program, where they lived in Serbia for a year. Our second DMM is Melike Tokatlioglu, who hails from Turkey.

The MM Team has broken down the set of countries into blocs, like the Caucuses, and the Balkans, etc. While each country has a dedicated crisis team for domestic issues, the DMMs will ensure bilateral and multilateral cooperation and dialogue between countries within these geographic blocs. Crises will also develop multinationally, and so we can expect cooperation and communication between committees to grow organically.

LS: How large is the conference?

SP: PiCSim is a relatively small conference, with anywhere between 120 and 160 students in attendance over the past few years. But we have attracted brilliant delegates from around the world. In the past, we’ve hosted delegations from India, Pakistan, Venezuela, Australia, just to name a few, along with strong domestic teams like West Point and University of Pennsylvania. Judging by registration numbers for PICSim 2014, this year already promises to bring in delegates from many places. Considering that Model UN is but a format for delegates to engage with international issues, we take pride in knowing that our diverse conference participation allows genuine international and cultural engagement outside committee too.

LS: Is there anything in specific  you would like potential delegates to know?

SP: 11 years ago, Princeton’s International Relations Council reflected on the College MUN circuit, and audaciously proposed a conference format so unique, and yet so wonderfully compelling, steeped in the promise of bringing the most real experience to a Model UN conference. PICSim enters its 11th year this year, and with the many changes that have been effected over the years, we are positive that this conference will be one to remember!

On the social front, we welcome delegates to Princeton’s unique Eating Clubs. What are they? Even we don’t know. But we’re going to take delegates, there in any case! As a teaser: think Black Ops. Think Black Sea. Deductive reasoning should conclude … Black Lights.

LS: The secret committees and potential black light party definitely got my attention! How and when would I register if I wanted to attend? 

SP: Registration for PICSim closes on the 17th of January (we extended it)! The conference takes place entirely on Princeton University campus, in the rooms of Robertson Hall, which houses Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (affectionately, Woody Woo).

Our pricing is extremely competitive, and we have a discount special for delegates who wish to stay at the Nassau Inn, conveniently located right outside campus.

The actual conference will take place from February 20-23, 2014.


More information is available on our website:
PICSim’s Charge d’Affairs, Nathan Eckstein, is reachable at


This is going to be a fantastic conference, and we urge delegates to register as soon as possible!

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