Club Leadership: Committee Placements in Model United Nations

by John Salchak on November 10, 2016


Image result for MUN team awards

The weeks or sometimes months of built-up excitement prior to the respective conference, is always full of anticipation for members of Model U.N. teams. You can usually find delegates diligently waiting to find out which committee they may have been assigned in, the topics they will discuss, and who they will be representing. The philosophy behind assigning team members specific committee spots varies from club to club. For many officers, the task of making committee assignments is not an enjoyable one; it is a difficult procedure based on the interests of the team as a whole and the interests of individual members. They must answer the critical question of how can they satisfy as many members of the team while also doing their best to ensure delegation awards. Understanding the motivations of teams as well as individuals will aid leadership in striking that balance and producing success.

Team Interests

Competitive MUN teams are typically is interested in two things, the first being delegation awards and the second being team sustainability. Delegation awards are the sign of a team’s success in most cases and a competitive team often puts a high priority on winning such awards. Awards also serve the purpose of building the prestige of a team allowing for greater recruiting opportunities which results in growth and obviously other positive effects. The other objective a team might have is sustainability, for the club to be successful year after year and in order to develop an impressive long standing track record. A team may appear successful if it wins many awards in a single year, but if all of the awards are won by seniors, and younger members of the club have not been trained effectively, the club will have a much harder time acquiring success in the future.

Member Interests

Often times at Best Delegate and the wider MUN community, Model United Nations is framed at an extracurricular activity, framed to broaden our horizons but more importantly, similar to any other extra-curricular activity, to returning delegates, MUN needs to be interesting, challenging and more importantly fun. This can be taken at face value; many students participate in MUN because it is a fun and enjoyable activity where they can learn about the world around them and gain invaluable skills. If a team member is not debating a topic that is interesting to them, they will often cease to have fun and eventually will lose interest. It should also be noted that delegates tend to win more awards when debating a topic they find interesting, which teams must take into consideration when making assignments.

The Issue

Where the interests come into conflict is that there are, in most cases, simply not enough desirable committee assignments to go around. A team may only receive a single Security Council position, and you could expect that far more than one person would want that spot. One could also expect that no member will indicate the Legal Committee as their first choice (Having 4 or 5 positions in that committee won’t help either), but unfortunately somebody has to take it. Accepting this fact will help club officers expedite the process of the selection process. The team leadership then must decide who to bestow the honor of being in the Security Council. The other issue arises when many strong and capable delegates indicated their preference for the same committee. If a team has a limited number of delegates that have proven themselves to have a high likelihood of winning awards, officers should not put them in the same committee as you’d like to spread your talent for better chances at awards. They  Teams must optimize the placement of their best delegates to win the most amount awards while also fulfilling as many preferences as possible, striking this delicate balance is a testament of strong leadership.

The Solution

The first step team leaders should make is having everybody that is attending a given conference fill out a form in which they rank each committee from most to least interesting. This allows officers to see what will make the individual delegates most content. The delegates whose preferences are taken into account. Preferences will be given to those of successful delegates, with the better-performing ones getting their first choice, and mediocre delegates getting their middle choices, etc. It should be noted that there is no formula for this, it is entirely subjective. The goal here is to build a “framework” of winning delegates, one in as many committees as possible. Once this is achieved with each committee having a decent chance of carrying an award, the other positions in the committee can be filled, with seniority coming into play to reward member retention and team loyalty. This means that new delegates may not always get their preferences fulfilled, but it does create a meritocracy, in which they are incentivized to do their best in committee, as that will lead to eventually having their preference more highly regarded. The other effect of this is that inevitably, new members will be placed in committees with experienced delegates and will gain exposure to successful MUN strategies. This ensures that they can learn, improve and eventually fill the shoes of experienced veterans when they graduate. In this way, teams have a sustainable pool of delegates-in-training as well as heavily encouraging members to hard work in committee. They also still take the interests of individual members into consideration and take steps to maximize the fun had by each delegate, while still hopefully winning many delegation awards.

An alternative solution and a philosophy various competitive travel teams tend to adopt, is to place strong, versatile delegates in generally what is refereed as the least preferred committee (Usually large General Assemblies) , putting mediocre delegates in smaller and more interesting committees and newer delegates to fill in the gaps. The logic behind such a strategy is that strong delegates will be a contender for awards regardless of which committee they are in. Operating by the assumption that smaller/more dynamic committees are considered to be more interesting, the likelihood of a mediocre delegate being recognized in that committee, is higher than if you would place them in a General Assembly of more than 200 delegates.

Clubs, may also decide to grant top committee preferences to members who may not be the strongest of delegates, but consistently immerse themselves in fundraising activities, and the overall cultivation of a comfortable team atmosphere.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, as officers, you really have to ask yourself. What is the image I want to propagate? Do I see the club being highly competitive? educational? or just very honestly fun oriented. Maybe, even all three! The important thing to remember is the difficult balance for you and your peers to strike.

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