Whether you’re a high school or college MUN team executive, teacher, or a student wanting to create their own school MUN team, building a team geared towards long-term growth can be tough. Challenges can range from recruiting members, funding delegation trips, and promoting the club’s popularity. It can also be tough to graduate and say goodbye to a club that’s been such a large part of your life – it’s natural to worry about the club’s survival long after you’re gone.
Common obstacles to club sustainability can include lack of interest, lack of membership or disorganization in future executives. Among this is the ever-worrisome “power vacuum”: a phenomenon that occurs when all the club’s resources are focused on older, “star” veterans with less attention paid to younger members. When the former group graduates, the club can be left with a shortage of loyal members to keep it going.
The keys to long-term growth and continued club existence are a strong membership base and well-defined and informed executive roles. When it comes down to it, a Model United Nations club is made great by its members. Catering to them from the beginning is crucial for the sustainability of your MUN team.
In The Beginning
Decide on your club’s executive structure. Some clubs, especially if they’re smaller, can make do with one or two Head Delegates. Other teams have a highly structured, multi-member and multi-tiered executive. Having a larger executive will work for larger clubs, while one or two execs will suffice for smaller ones. Decide if you want to have specific positions in charge of various portfolios: common positions include VP Publicity, VP Training, Director of Conference Affairs. An executive with many leadership opportunities can help attract members and get them involved in the club from the very beginning. Consider having positions like Freshman Representative, which can help get younger delegates involved and feel included: remember, these are the delegates that will be in charge of the club years from now.
Diversify your delegates’ skill sets. Don’t get caught in the GA vs Crisis dilemma – where General Assembly delegate positions are given to younger, inexperienced delegates and Crisis is reserved for MUN veterans. This creates an environment where GA positions are merely seen as “obstacles” that must be endured before the fun stuff begins. Let delegates try a bit of everything before they decide to specialize. If this means the executives will have to take on GA positions to let younger members try crisis, so be it.
Identify star players … Talent is key to building a sustainable MUN club. Awards – from individual ones to delegation-wide ones – will give your club legitimacy, staying power, and can help you gain funding. Learn how to recruit top talent – through channels like debate team, teacher recommendations and word of mouth – and then work on developing that talent (Best Delegate has great resources on how to recruit and develop top talent). Scouting a diverse pool of talent is also a good way to give committee assignments that are tailored to delegate skill sets: a specialist in Latin might benefit from participating in a crisis set in Ancient Rome, for example.
… but don’t neglect the others. Make sure to avoid creating an “exclusive” club atmosphere. Model UN is first a learning experience, second a fun opportunity to meet people, and third a competition. Avoid a “clique”-y environment at all costs. Though it may appear so from the outside, MUN is about so much more than awards; it’s also about meeting a group of fun and like-minded people and benefiting from a fantastic learning experience. Try to convey that by holding a variety of events: aside from training sessions or practice simulations, host social events like board game nights, current events discussions and even parties. If you only focus on “star” delegates, you’ll find yourself with a significant power vacuum when these delegates leave: it’s imperative that you thus create an inclusive club atmosphere where everyone is involved. Again, pay attention to younger delegates, as these will be the ones leading the club long after you’re gone.
Consolidate your resources. Leave a paper trail. Create a binder with all the resources needed to run a MUN club:
- Make a list of all the conferences the team tends to go to, and keep it on hand for future executives. This list should include costs, average difficulty, past results, chairing type — anything you know to make planning easier along the line. As the years go by, future executives can add to it and work towards creating a comprehensive list.
- Keep a list of training ideas to use at a moment’s notice: salient political issues to discuss, public speaking topics, crisis ideas…
- Keep past promotion materials on hand: posters you’ve used in the past, brochures, flyers, clippings from the school newspaper…
- Why not print out some Best Delegate training resources to keep handy? My Head Delegate binder always had Best Delegate’s guides on what to keep in a research binder, how to write a resolution, the stages of committee, “framing“, and more.
Have Junior Head Delegates. Creating leadership positions for younger delegates is a great strategy for attracting members and ensuring long-term growth. Let some members adopt some of the responsibilities of a Head Delegate on certain conference trips. Not only will this ensure that Head Delegates can pass on key aspects of their experience, it’ll also help create an inclusive atmosphere. You can make these positions application-based, subject to a club-wide vote, or simply appointed.
At The End
Decide how the future executive will be decided. Will it be a vote? Will it be by application process? Will the current executives simply decide? Each method has its pros and cons. If your club is large, consider having a nomination process followed by a vote: that way you can ensure that future executives are qualified, but still selected by their fellow club members. If your club is small, an appointed executive might be a better option.
Once they’re selected, let the future executives lead a practice session/chair a simulation/be head delegates for the last conference of the year… Giving future executives the chance to “test-drive” their new position will give them valuable experience, and you’ll be able to help them through it. It’ll also give the rest of the club members a chance to familiarize themselves with their new executives.
Leave an exit report. In it, include what worked that year and what didn’t – from training strategies, to conference planning, to aspects of delegation trips, to committee assignments. Include suggestions for next year: conferences you wanted to attend but couldn’t, training ideas you wanted to try out but didn’t have time for… As the years go by, future executives can add or modify the exit report and pass it on to the next year’s executives, ensuring that they’re as prepared for the coming year as possible.
Hold a transition meeting. Give the future executives the chance to ask you questions, propose new ideas and discuss expectations and plans for the coming year. Taking charge of a club can be scary, so your goal is to make sure they’re as prepared as possible to take the reins.
Have tips, questions or comments on how to build a sustainable MUN team? Comment below!