Defining Success in Model UN: Should Awards and Rankings Exist in MUN?

by KFC on December 17, 2012

Awards or the lack thereof in Model UN reflect pre-existing educational values in a community

The Best Delegate team has been to 200+ conferences around the world and we have seen many definitions of success that reflect different educational values and philosophies.

Some conferences value the competitive aspect of Model UN, and they give out awards. Others place value the educational experience of Model UN — they believe the experience is the reward. Some conferences try to teach students how the world is. Others want to show students how the world should be.

These opposing philosophies largely reflect the realism and liberalism schools of thought in international relations. Whether they realize it or not, conferences and teams that value competition and how the world is follow a realist approach to teaching international relations. In contrast, conferences and programs that want students to cooperate and envision how the world ought to be follow a liberal approach to IR.

This contrast is driven by the decentralized nature of Model UN, where conferences and teams have mainly grown independent of one another. They shape Model UN to reflect the educational and cultural values of their schools and communities. They place Model UN in the context in which they see their home country participating in international issues. And, in accordance with their values, they’ve decided whether or not to give awards.

Awards have been part of a long-running debate in Model UN. There are long lists of pros and cons for having awards or not having awards in Model UN. Our role at Best Delegate is not to decide the debate. It’s not our place to say who’s right or who’s wrong. There are many ways to improve the existing competitive or cooperative approaches to Model UN, but there’s no one “correct” way to do Model UN.

Our role at Best Delegate is to centralize information on Model UN and offer different perspectives on the activity so that you can make informed decisions to create the Model UN experience that you value.

Conferences are free to shape their simulation to reflect what they want to teach and can define success accordingly. Schools are free to choose the type of conferences they wish to attend or provide feedback to conference organizers if a particular value or philosophy is lacking in their community.

Best Delegate respects the diversity of existing educational values and philosophies behind different Model UN conferences, and part of our social mission is to promote Model UN appropriately in each community and help the students and teachers in that community achieve their definition of success.

Our mission is to help you succeed at Model UN. You define what success means to you — we want to help you achieve it.


We believe a delegate’s development of leadership skills and progression in their Model UN career typically follow three stages regardless if awards exist or not in the community. First, they want to do well in committee and help their teammates to do well. Next, they understand the importance of participating in the broader, global MUN community and see value in connecting it together. Finally, they take their experience beyond just simulations to make an impact on the real world. In essence, the three stages correspond with learning how to be a citizen, how to be global, and then how to be a global citizen.

Best Delegate will produce three recurring types of articles to recognize success at the three stages:

1A. Team Rankings: Team rankings are meant to measure success at awards-centric circuits and are entirely data-driven. Every ranking has its biases and ours does too — it serves a larger purpose of expanding the Model UN experience by valuing criteria that encourage teams to grow, improve, and attend more conferences. We will continue to post up team rankings for the North America high school circuit and a sub-set of the North America college circuit that values competition.

1B. Success Stories: We will respect communities that do not value awards by not putting their teams into a ranking and by writing articles that highlight other definitions of success at the conference level instead. Success could mean a student understanding that the gavel hunter is not the true Best Delegate, a team overcoming obstacles to even attend a Model UN conference in the first place, or a teacher fighting cancer while preparing students for a Model UN conference.

2. All-Star Team: The All-Star Team will recognize sets of individuals from a particular circuit for making a difference inside and outside of committee during conferences. These are the diplomatic leaders — the true Best Delegates — that are respected by participants from across the circuit. As such, they will be selected through a voting process where teams will nominate individuals from other schools. The All-Star Team serves a larger purpose of strengthening relationships between teams within a community, and we decided this method would be more beneficial and healthier for the circuit than just making a list of the top individual award winners or main submitters. Our first All-Star Team will be in the North America college circuit (more details forthcoming), but we hope to expand this to every community in the future.

3. Spotlight: The Spotlight series will showcase the amazing and inspirational things Model UN participants, teachers, and alumni are doing outside of Model UN. Examples could include a student leading a trip to the West Bank and Israel to understand both sides or a teacher bringing the Model UN experience to a student in Somalia. The larger purpose is to empower participants to take what they have learned from Model UN and give back their experience or make a difference in the real world. We tested the Spotlight series this past Fall, and we will grow it next semester until we can spotlight the best stories globally on a weekly basis. Members of the community will be able to nominate others to be featured in the Spotlight series (more details in the next Spotlight article).

We hope this puts our different types of recognition articles into context. Our mission is to serve the entire Model UN community — that’s you! — and help each of the different communities define, reward, and promote success appropriately in Model UN. We value any feedback you would like to provide to help us improve. Feel free to leave a constructive comment below.


Announcements to awards-centric communities since they’ve most likely been waiting for Fall rankings:

Fall Rankings for the North American high school circuit and college circuit (“World Division” subset only) will be released soon. The major change for the high school circuit will be a tiered ranking to balance out the disparity in availability and competitiveness of MUN conferences across regions as well as the arbitrary mid-season cutoff at winter break. The college “World Division” rankings criteria will remain the same.

All-Star Team criteria and details will be posted up soon and also sent to any Head Delegates if we have their contact information. Head Delegates, with the consultation of their team, will submit a list of up to ten individuals from outside their school to nominate for the All-Star Team. Votes will be tallied to determine the team.

An Awards Reform article will be posted up to accompany the series that will address the issues for awards-centric conferences and open dialogue on how to improve individual and team awards on the circuit.

  • Tessa Hahn

    Unrelated comment. KFC, I’m about 99.73% sure that the picture associated with this article was taken at LIMUN 2012. Am I right?

    • Kevin Felix Chan

      Hi Tessa! Yes, this is the trophy from LIMUN 2012!

  • Michael Hinchliffe

    Thanks Best Delegate for opening the window to the more educational side of the Model UN community. I think you do a great job of providing a wealth of information about MUN, and highlighting the differences out there is a really great development.

    • Ryan Villanueva

      Thanks Michael! You and IDIA do great work, too, and we want to recognize everyone’s successes in the MUN community.

  • Pingback: Fall 2012 North American College Rankings()

  • Jef Willems

    I don’t understand where this parallel with realism vs. liberalism comes from. Realists are for the biggest part skeptical of international institutions, perceiving them as marginal and completely dependent on states’ will. This in combination with Model UN’s intense emphasis on transnational cooperation makes MUN something overwhelmingly founded in liberal thought. In the case of your argument, this would essentially make awards contrary to MUN’s goals.

  • rotaractmun

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring article with us. Looking forward for many more successful MUN Conferences world wide

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