Ryan Mitton is a master’s student at the London School of Economics studying Public Management and Governance. He previously served as the Secretary-General of McMUN at McGill University, and is a former Diplomacy Fellow for the Best Delegate Model UN Institute.
We spend a lot of time trying to decipher how delegates ought to behave in the MUN conference room. Indeed, everyone draws on various experiences and models to determine their attitudes going into a conference. However, not all delegates bring the same management styles when it comes to negotiating a draft resolution. An important tool to any delegate’s arsenal is understanding that we all take on different roles when it comes to managing committee dynamics. Each of our management styles can be broken down into the importance of the rules – the grid – and the importance of the group.
This grid/group model is a cornerstone for cultural theory. It was first made relevant to management by Christopher Hood in his 1998 book, The Art of the State. When viewed as a graph, the model gives us four categories of attitudes. Just as we can find these attitudes in government, delegates will find these archetypes in Model UN committees. By adapting Hood’s theory to MUN, we can represent some of the ways other delegates or entire working groups manage negotiations on the conference floor:
1. The Individualist
You might know this delegate the best. For them, the committee floor is a free market of ideas. These delegates have a low reliance on the committee rules and don’t place a high degree of importance on group attitudes. This reflects a belief that the committee environment is meant to be competitive and can tolerate some arguments. For them, it’s all about what each individual brings in – and out – of the committee session. Groups that reflect individualist values have a low emphasis on the rules and low emphasis on the group.
Example: When the time comes to present draft resolutions in committee, there are not enough spots for everyone to be present on the Q&A panel. The individualist argues that they should get a spot based on the work that they did for the draft resolution.
Strengths: Strong speaker and negotiator. Always knows what they want and will strive to get it. Competition brings out creativity.
Potential Problems: When individualism is too prevalent, groups can succumb to excessive opportunism, fighting for the limelight, and free-riding.
2. The Hierarchist
Hierarchism, albeit less common, emphasizes the importance of leaders within the group. This can be seen when delegates try to organize themselves based on experience or status. This situation might be best seen in a Security Council committee when delegates try to use their veto power as a negotiating tool. If you’ve ever seen the P5 nations clustered together in a UNSC committee, you’ll understand that these are inward-looking cultures, and they typically default to a small number of leaders giving out orders. Groups that are hierarchist have a high emphasis on the rules and a high emphasis on the group.
Example: A bloc with several P5 nations don’t take the contributions of delegates from smaller countries as seriously because the other delegates are not from important countries. When the time comes to present the draft resolution, the delegates from the P5 nations argue that the status of their countries means that they should be the main presenters.
Strengths: Well-defined plans of action. Respect for (and use of) the rules.
Potential Problems: Overemphasizing “bossism” can prevent quick responses to problems, causing the organization to collapse due to inflexibility. Leaders of a block may spend more time arguing about a chair’s interpretation of the rules than attempting to make changes to their draft resolution.
3. The Egalitarian
This archetype is becoming more and more common in the Model UN community. You may recognize egalitarians by their emphasis on cooperation and their willingness to seek out agreements by consensus as opposed to forcing a vote on the committee floor. Cooperation is the name of the game, and it’s meant to be both mutual and sustainable for all the delegates involved. Groups that have an egalitarian attitude have a low emphasis on the rules and a high emphasis on the group.
Example: The time comes to present draft resolutions, but the group has all equally contributed to the draft resolution and cannot decide who to have present. Some delegates nominate others to present and the group agrees on the Q&A panel by consensus. However during Q&A it is pointed out that this group’s resolution has some contradicting clauses because everyone’s ideas were included.
Strengths: Organic and self-organizing. Low emphasis on process and more focus on outcomes. Prioritization of agreement.
Potential Problems: Over-emphasizing egalitarianism can lead to group-think and a loss of creativity. Groups can fail to adapt to crises and over-compromise can dilute the meaning of group goals.
4. The Fatalist
Fatalism sounds like it might get too much of a bad rap. For starters, you might already be picturing the delegate who just sits out committee session in the back row, waiting for things to end. However, these attitudes can be found many other places. The core principles of fatalism are about making do with what you have and making things work. Fatalists accept sub-optimal outcomes from the outset, instead choosing coping strategies as a means of getting by. This might sound rare, but it is far more common than you might think. That said, fatalism does provide the small advantage of playing devil’s advocate. Where all three other archetypes may be enthusiastic to pursue an idea, fatalists serve to check our ambitions and ask if our plan is really as great as we say it is. This can prevent groupthink and a great deal of mistakes. Fatalism places a high emphasis on the rules and a low emphasis on the group.
Example: Several delegates don’t end up as signatories to a draft resolution or only join one because they are asked to. They take part in some of the debate early on but quickly give up because they think most of the ideas are not realistic and would not work in the real world.
Strengths: “It’s all just a game!”
Potential Problems: Too much fatalism means not caring about what the group does. Groups don’t take action or develop their own solutions.
Making use of “Grid” and “Group”
Understanding the four archetypes of delegates doesn’t mean that every delegate you meet will fit exactly into one of these four molds. More often than not, delegates will embody more than one type of trait. It is also equally common for delegates to borrow the language of other archetypes. We all know individualist delegates who have claimed to have cooperation as their first priority! However, understanding these four typologies can give any delegate an upper hand in understanding the various motivations of their partners on a working paper, in a debate or negotiation, or even in other activities outside of Model UN.
One of the most important things, however, is to remember that too much of any one type of person will cause the problems in each archetype to emerge in a group’s dynamics. A healthy mix of each type of person can develop many of the good attributes while keeping the bad ones in check. Yes, even the fatalist. Ultimately keeping track of these archetypes will help you understand the motivations of other delegates you run into at your next conference.