A group of high school sophomores going to their first overnight conference e-mailed me this question:
“How do you survive in a double delegation committee if you do not have a co-delegate? Is it a big disadvantage not having one, or does it not make a difference?”
This is an excerpt from my reply:
“Everything is a matter of perspective. From your perspective, that of a delegate, it is clearly a disadvantage to not have a co-delegate; there is one of you and two of them, i.e. everyone else in committee. In a double delegate committee, a good delegation will split up the work; one person will be giving speeches and making comments while the other works the back of the room, building consensus and writing the resolution. A single delegation clearly cannot be two places at once, hence it is a disadvantage when other delegations can.
A double delegation, however, needs to coordinate, and that takes more work. It is very easy for a double delegation to contradict itself; one delegate promises another delegate to include a certain idea in the resolution while his or her partner makes a speech denouncing the idea, not realizing the promise that was made. A single delegation doesn’t have this issue, so in this way, that is a good thing. Of course, a good double delegation knows its policy and its partners so thoroughly that they will not contradict itself, making this small advantage for the single delegation an ephemeral one, temporary at best, not to be relied upon.
A lot also depends upon the perspective of the chair. Some chairs take pity on the single delegate in the double delegation committee, perhaps giving him or her more speaking time in order to compensate for a lack of partner. A kind chair might even take this into consideration for awards, and come to the conclusion that between two delegations, having done the same amount of work in committee and being equally worthy of the Best Delegate award, the single delegation is more worthy than the double delegation because he or she had to do more work as a single delegate, whereas the double delegation could split the work, or the double delegation had one weak partner and thus split the work unevenly.
But again, this is a small and unreliable advantage. Your chair may not care at all about single or double delegations. Your chair might come to the opposite conclusion, that it is not fair to advantage a single delegate when the conference asked schools to provide double delegations for particular committees; indeed, a conference would not want to penalize the school that actually brought enough delegates to fill all of its assigned spots.
And the perspective of the chair does not matter if the other delegates in the room ignore you because you are a single delegation. Because you, as a single delegate, cannot be two places at once, not only can you not do as much work as a double delegation, but you will not be as visible as a double delegation. When delegates see one part of a double delegation and immediately associates him or her with the delegation as a whole, not just the individual delegate, then the symbol has become more than the individual; Bob and Jane are no longer seen as Bob and Jane but as China, a tag team working together to promote Chinese policy, acting in complete harmony with one another in order to unite the committee around their cause. In other words, the committee tends to respect a team that can really work together; the committee recognizes when a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is much more difficult for the single delegate to obtain this kind of respect.
That being said, there are some things you can do to help your cause (and I’m sorry it takes me so long to get to actionable points, but I think the reasoning behind them is much more important).
A large part of MUN involves winning allies. Not just random allies, and especially not equally ambitious allies who are also intent on winning the committee, but allies that like you–friends, even–people who like partnering with you and promoting your ideas because they like those, too. This concept requires its own article, but the point is this: you can offset your disadvantage of not having a co-delegate if you can forge strong enough alliances.
You are still at a disadvantage; a pair of co-delegates can work the room faster and perhaps more easily than you, a one-person delegation. And once delegates are ‘won over’ to a certain delegation or caucus bloc, then it becomes much more difficult to win them to ‘your side.’ But if you hustle early and can create a strong alliance, then it will not matter whether you lack a co-delegate or not; your allies, in effect, become your co-delegates.
But, here’s the ultimate question: should it matter? Should not having a co-delegate really matter that much to you? My answer to that question is no.
Of course it will be more difficult to ‘win’ without a co-delegate, but it should not make committee any less fun or the experience any less enjoyable. You should do the same things you should normally do: have fun, learn something, make friends, and, yes, try to win. I actually believe that when you let go of winning, it comes easier to you, ironically. It doesn’t mean you try less; it means that the ‘right things’ become second nature, and you stop thinking about it so much, and you can just enjoy the activity for what it is. And regardless of whether or not you win an award, that is when you truly become ‘Best Delegate.'”