How to Build Your Model UN Program

by Ryan on March 16, 2011


Cerritos MUN students pose after being honored by the Cerritos City Council for their achievements. Cerritos High School in Southern California offers Model UN as a class.

The Best Delegate team and I have seen hundreds of MUN clubs in action around the world, first as delegates, then as conference organizers, and now as professionals.

Every club has a different story, but they share common themes and go through similar stages. Also, the educational benefits of Model UN (which I described in my previous post) increase with each stage.

In this post, I’d like to show high school students and teachers who are new to Model UN a potential path that your MUN club can follow – and what is possible with MUN. But here are the main takeaways:

  • At their most essential, Model UN clubs do two things: attend conferences and run conferences. New clubs should focus on sustainability — being able to attend and run conferences year after year.
  • Model UN clubs can do more than attend and run conferences. Model UN can be offered as a class, become a flagship program that adds prestige to your school, and even form as an education non-profit that can offer scholarships to your students.
  • The most important factor in the long-term growth of a high school Model UN club is the advisor. Students have to take initiative in terms of starting the club and running conferences, but they graduate. Only the advisor has the institutional knowledge necessary for a Model UN club to keep growing and learn from previous years. Conversely, Model UN clubs can disappear if the advisor leaves and, due to lack of institutional knowledge and documentation, no one can take that advisor’s place.

Start a Model UN Club

Model UN is a club at most schools across the United States. Many clubs focus on attending one or two large overnight conferences a year, which are great experiences, but they are costly, require extensive planning, and are often highly competitive (which tends to overwhelm newer delegates). More clubs should attend multiple local 1-day conferences, ideally in the Fall, in order to gain experience and prepare for the larger overnight conferences.

Start a Model UN Conference

Most MUN clubs attend conferences only and stop there, but they should consider starting their own conference. Running a conference is not only a great educational experience for students, it serves as a fundraiser (you can charge a low registration fee) and provides publicity for your MUN club (you can invite students from your school who are not in the club to participate as delegates). Serving as chairs also make students better delegates. And as more clubs start hosting small conferences, neighboring school gain more chances to develop MUN experience, and everyone gets better at Model UN.

When starting your first conference, start small, keep it simple, and make it as easy as possible on your club. Run just one committee and invite only students from your school. You want to figure out event logistics, gain chairing experience, and prove to your club and your school administration that you can run a small event successfully. Once you’re familiar with running a conference, then you can expand by adding committees, inviting other schools, and increasing the number of delegates.

Offer Model UN as a Class

The most well-established Model UN clubs I’ve seen don’t call themselves clubs – they’re “programs,” in the same way that high schools have a football program or a drama program. Such programs offer MUN as a class, typically using Model UN to teach a social studies curriculum.

I come from a high school Model UN program that involves over 200 students and 3 advisors, and there are several similarly-sized MUN programs throughout Southern California. At these programs, MUN is incorporated into honors history, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate classes for freshmen through seniors. Participation at conferences is factored into grades. These programs also run conferences that rival most college-run conferences, attracting 1,500+ delegates from around the world with highly experienced chairs (students of these MUN programs gain tons of experience by attending each other’s conferences).

These Model UN programs become highly valuable to their schools. Winning delegation awards and running conferences add to their schools’ prestige. A flagship Model UN program also attracts students who would otherwise attend neighboring schools. I’ve met parents who transferred their child out of their normally assigned school or district in order to get into a school with similar academic and athletic programs, but that also has a strong Model UN program. And when a Model UN program gets to this level, the Model UN advisor becomes indispensable to the school.

Form an Education Non-Profit

The most well-established Model UN programs feature a parent booster club that is formed as an educational non-profit organization. Their finances are independent from the school and profits generated by running conferences go into a separate bank account, which the program can then use to finance travel to other conferences. This is particularly helpful when it comes to planning travel to overnight conferences, especially international conferences – the booster club can put down the deposits for airfare and accommodations, lock in a specific price, and offer students a payment schedule.

Highly successful programs can also provide resources for their students, such as new computers and educational materials. They can also offer scholarships to help students finance travel to MUN conferences, and even scholarships to attend college.

* * *

The goal of this post is to provide new advisors and delegates with a different perspective on how they can build their MUN club. I’d love to get your thoughts and questions, as well as any advice that experienced Model UN teachers might have for those who are just starting out. Leave a comment below!

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  • Renee Cella

    I love this post! I teach middle school in Denver, Colorado, and I am thinking about starting a MUN class next fall for my 8th graders. Your post has given me encouragement. I need training, but I am willing to learn! If you have any middle school information for me, I would appreciate whatever you can share. Thank you.

    • KFC

      Hi Renee,

      I don’t have any information on middle schools but I know UNA-USA does hold a Middle School MUN conference in New York City (which our website will be featuring later in April) and I believe Montessori MUN has middle school participation as well. Some high school conferences also accept middle school participants or do separate training conferences for them (particularly if they need into the host high school).

      We’re planning to do more teacher training and professional development around the country in Fall 2011. Do you think many teachers in Denver would be interested in this?

  • Pingback: WAMUNC Preview Plus Recaps of WorldMUN, York YMUN, Cornell CMUNC, and Universidad Latinoamericana ULAMUN | Best Delegate()

  • Lodom

    I would love an online teacher training program or a web based seminar. Please let me know if you offer something online or internationally.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ryanvilla Ryan Villanueva

      We would love to offer one! Online training is something we’ve been considering for a while. If you’d like, you can send us your email address and any thoughts you’d like to share re: an online program. If and when we start developing an online program, we’d like to get feedback from teachers directly. Feel free to reach us at ryan@nullbestdelegate.com. Thanks!

  • Wasim Akram

    I love these post…and we have started a UN Club in our school recently. And we have simply develop now because it was launched at our school a few month ago..so i need your help to develop the club through our country so please help me and give your suggestions and idea to develop it…..contact me: wsmkrm03@nullgmail.com….waiting for a favorable reply…

  • Bella Kim

    Hi, I am willing to make a UN club at our school and I was willing to know what I should prepare and how I should lead the club. So please help me and contact me:) flyhigh379@nullgmail.com Thank you

  • Carlos Chavira

    Hi, I am very interested in starting a model UN club at my school, but Model UN does not exist in my city and I am lost as to how to start it. Any help is appreciated, my email is cchavira13@nullgmail.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fabian.zermeno Fabian Zermeno

    Its great that you told us about tall the benefits of creating an MU chapter! However many of us would appreciate it if you supplied us with the proper tools, forms, documents, information, details, etc. on HOW to start it as opposed to WHY we should start one. Please email me @ zermenofabian95@nullyahoo.com or put up some information on this website!

  • Nikhita

    Hello, I am currently a high school junior and I would like to try and start a MUN team at my school as a senior project. I don’t have any experience, but it is something I’ve always wanted to take part in. If you have any resources for starting a club or team, please contact me at asdnairi@nullgmail.com.

  • Noha Pittman

    Hi, I am very interested in starting a model UN club at my high school. There are currently no other MUN clubs in my district and I am lost on how to start it and get it up and running, especially with creating a budget and timeline. Any help would be greatly appreciated! npittman1@nullsaisd.net Thank you!!

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