Moving Away From Rankings to Recognition for High School Model UN

by KFC on June 5, 2014

373c476d5dce44e9b7f2c413437012acGavalBest Delegate will not be publishing rankings for the North American High School Model UN community this year. However, we will still be recognizing teams for their success and the Media team is currently reaching out to conferences for awards information. Rankings have been both highly popular and controversial, but after careful consideration of its impact on our values, the community, and its teams, we have decided that another form of recognition will be healthier and more appropriate for Model UN.

Why is Best Delegate Moving Away From Rankings?

The purpose of the rankings was to recognize success. Back in March 2011, Ryan and I were teaching a year-long class on international relations at a public high school and during our prep period, we remarked how we had visited many high school and college conferences around North America that year and had aggregated a lot of awards data in the process. We brainstormed how we could publish this data in a useful way that would be beneficial to the community and we came up with the idea to recognize programs that had both quality and quantity — they were the best at preparing their students, and they gave more students more opportunities to participate at conferences. These were the programs that we thought were the most successful. With that definition of success in mind, we decided to create a rankings methodology (called “Standings” when it first came out until readers kept referring to them as “Rankings”) that aggregated awards across all conferences.

However, rankings are no longer the best medium to serve that purpose because of the following reasons that impact our values, the community, and its teams.

1. Rankings take away from our educational mission.

The mission of Best Delegate is to help Model United Nations participants succeed in the activity. Of course, there are many definitions of success. Here at Best Delegate, we believe that the best education for a participant who wants to be prepared to interact with a wide range of people and solve a wide range of problems is to experience a wide range of definitions of success. We also believe that these definitions of success, such as winning awards through top-notch competition or receiving education through a valuable experience, are not always mutually exclusive.

Awards have existed in Model UN long before the creation of this website and is only one definition of success. We primarily promote this definition of success twice a year (Fall and Final rankings), but it gets disproportionate attention at the expense of all the other content that we put out. Some participants therefore only associate Best Delegate with rankings when it is in fact not the focus of the vast majority of our work.

This has led to cognitive dissonance as Best Delegate has grown to become a global organization. For example, Best Delegate provides training for THIMUN-affiliated groups and in partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information. Neither organization emphasizes awards; THIMUN does not give out any awards. It is important for Best Delegate to be able to offer educational programs without them being associated with a focus on competition.

2. Rankings have produced the negative effect of making the activity too competitive and too focused on rankings.

Head delegates and faculty advisors from schools throughout the United States and Canada have brought up that the rankings are making Model UN too competitive as teams seek to get ranked for the primary purpose of getting ranked. This has become so widely known that one British student at a European conference told me that he “hates Best Delegate because it has made his MUN friends in New York only care about rankings.” Only a small minority of student-leaders have told me that the rankings have inspired them to help their team get better for the sole purpose of improvement and education, and only a small minority of faculty advisors have said that rankings have benefited Model UN without any negative consequences.

So although our intended consequence was to encourage teams to train their delegates better in research, speaking, and negotiation instead of showing up at conferences underprepared and to give their students more chances to participate at more conferences — and to get recognized for that — the actual unintended consequence is the increase of gavel-hunting delegates who use competitive, “power delegate” tactics for the primary purpose of winning awards and helping their team get ranked. Teams have also started selecting more competitive conferences for the purposes of boosting their ranking, which has negatively impacted some conferences in terms of attendance numbers and on the type of educational committee experience they wanted to create. Competition can be healthy, but that is not the current state of Model UN according to participants and rankings are doing more to hurt the activity than to help it.

Of course, getting rid of rankings does not solve the issue of competition (if that is even an issue to begin with). Competition in Model UN will always exist as long as awards exist and are limited, and awards have existed long before this website for both cultural reasons (e.g. many academic activities have been giving out awards to students since they were little kids) and economic reasons (e.g. to incentivize clubs to attend the conference and send more students). Elements of competition will always exist even if conferences do not give awards if their rules of procedure places limits on leadership opportunities instead of focusing on building consensus — for example, having one main submitter or several primary sponsors to a resolution or having voting where there are winners and losers instead of having an entire committee be part of and agree upon the same resolution as in UN4MUN procedure.

3. Some of the best teams do not want rankings.

I interact with the faculty advisors of top-25 ranked teams often since I see them at the largest conferences throughout the year. They usually provide well-rounded feedback and insight into the state of Model UN, and two comments stood out in particular.

One faculty advisor of a perennial top-10 team remarked that he tells his students not to check the rankings and not to talk about it at school. Rankings have no place in their program that emphasizes the educational side of Model UN. Another faculty advisor of a different perennial top-10 team remarked that there should not be rankings in Model UN, and that Best Delegate can make a powerful statement by getting rid of them. These are both faculty advisors who respect Best Delegate for its other work. Of course, other faculty advisors and head delegates of top-ranked teams have been eagerly awaiting the rankings and probably benefit from them, so there is no consensus here.

There are a lot of reasons for and against rankings, but when the faculty advisors of some of the best and most respected teams do not believe it is the right platform of recognition, then it is time for a change.

What Will the New Recognition Look Like? 

Best Delegate’s mission is still to help participants find success in Model United Nations, and it would be a disservice to a large part of the North America high school MUN community if existing definitions of success that are based on awards are not recognized. Therefore, Best Delegate will still publish a recognition platform.

The recognition platform that we will aim to publish by mid-June is a list of the top delegations for Canada and for five regions in the United States: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, South, and West. Top delegations will be determined more by facts — the schools in each region that won the top school delegation awards at top multi-day conferences in the US and Canada — and less reliance on the weighted score formula used in the rankings that rewarded teams for winning more individual awards at more conferences and at the most competitive conferences. In order to best represent each region’s conferences and teams, Best Delegate will be reaching out to over 100 multi-day conferences located throughout the United States and Canada for their delegation award results and full awards lists where available. In order to balance between de-emphasizing competition while making the results meaningful, the end result will look similar to the tiered and limited Top 25 Regional teams from last year’s rankings.

An interesting alternative idea suggested by a reader in a comment to one of the previous rankings articles is to have a standing page of delegation award winners at every conference. This would simply be sharing facts without placing value or analysis on them (i.e. listing the delegation award winners without comparing their merits against delegation award winners at other conferences), and it would be updated throughout the year. This would be a further departure from the rankings and could be considered in future years.

If you have suggestions, please leave a comment and that will be the official way for us to receive feedback on how to best recognize teams for their successes in the future.

**

Best Delegate is currently reaching out to over 100 multi-day conferences in the United States and Canada for their awards lists. Nikita Barde is the project lead for the US Northeast region, Erik Leiden is the project lead for the US Mid-Atlantic region, Prathm Juneja is the project lead for the US Midwest and US South regions, and Ginny Tan is the project lead for the US West region and Canada. We hope to publish the results by mid-June.

  • DB

    To be clear – to replace the previously established tiered ranking system, Best Delegate will be utilizing an alphabetized list of the top 25 teams for each region?

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      The list will most likely be alphabetized as we will no longer place-rank teams. The number of teams may vary depending on the awards data submitted by the conferences.

  • Nik

    I don’t think this is a good idea. Actually, I definitely don’t think this is a good idea.

    I believe the problem starts with the fall premise that increased competition detracts from Model United Nations’ mission. BestDelegate believes (and rightly so) that its rankings have contributed to increased competition, and therefore has decided to eliminate them.
    In this case, BestDelegate takes a naive approach by only citing the potential negative impact of rankings. Therefore, it’s imperative to look at the issue of rankings / competition in a more intellectual, and objective light.

    1. Overall, Competition is a good thing!

    For many people, MUN is one of the only competitive team activities that they are involved with. Since the beginning of rankings in 2011, this activity has inspired more creativity, strategy, and team-building. Just as in real life, competition may lead to a few negative outcomes, but its net benefit is enormous.

    2. Competition helps INCREASE learning!

    Opponents of the ranking system believe that this increased competition has detracted from the educational component of MUN. I disagree. In any academic, sports, or real-life job situation, increased competition teaches one how to perform under pressure. In each of these three settings, a student, team, or company is compared to its peers. In fact, in many circumstances, a set of “rankings” show which individual or team is the best or worst. Why should MUN be different? As a participant of High School Model UN for four years, I believe the ranking system pushed myself and my team to research and prepare even more for each conference. Therefore, I think it is incorrect to state that the ranking system detracts from the educational mission of MUN.

    Overall, shifting from a ranking to recognition system will have a negative effect. Competition will fall, team objectives will waver, and BestDelegate will definitely receive less cite traffic! In 2011, the advent of rankings gave more meaning to Model UN. I may not have agreed with the specific order, but I loved the idea of comparing one team to another; making MUN a true academic sport. BestDelegate was very bold for this idea, and I applaud them for it. However, three years later, as they leave behind their original system, I feel as if they are making a big mistake. Please reconsider.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      These are good points and I understand them as a former student who participated at competitive conferences. However, I think a significant number of faculty advisors and some students who’ve spoken with us would disagree and would say this:

      1. Net benefit has been enormous for the top 25 teams or so. Net negative outcomes are experienced by the thousand+ teams who aren’t highly ranked or not ranked at all.

      2. I make the “smart sport” analogy all the time (even quoted in NY Times), but faculty advisors don’t believe MUN should be like a sport or academic competition. They think higher quality of preparation and debate can increase learning, but increased competitiveness and pressure does not. In my personal opinion, it comes down to what specific skills and knowledge you want students to get out of MUN and there’s no consensus there.

      3. Faculty advisors who don’t want competition would probably point out that if team objectives waver without rankings (delegation and individual awards still exist), then they probably had the wrong objectives to begin with.

      Website traffic is nice but we would rather be known for our overall body of work than just rankings.

    • Ervin Tankiang

      I completely disagree. While there may be good points to a competitive ranking system, they are far outweighed by the negatives. These negatives manifest themselves strongly at the university Model UN level, where, in the pursuit of awards and in the pursuit of good marks (where students take MUN as a subject), delegates consistently engage in tactical undiplomatic behaviour.

      The role of Model UN, if it is to simulate the UN, is to encourage consensus building diplomacy NOT competitive behaviour.

      • Michael

        If the role of the MUN is to simulate the UN, then competitive diplomatic behaviour should be preferred. The US consistently bullies and pressures other nations to achieve its own goals, in the same way that small nations almost always form coalitions to gain power over such countries. Diplomacy is inherently tactical, and part of MUN is learning how ambassadors and presidents think during global crises.

        I’d like to see you name one circumstance wherein the UN reached a meaningful consensus that wasn’t driven by the tactical, competitive, goals of individual nations.

        • Ervin Tankiang

          Let me rephrase my statement – Model UN is supposed to simulate the UN according to the ideals of the UN.

          Unfortunately the reality isn’t pretty as you say. That’s a pretty terrible reason for copying reality though. I don’t understand why we would be aiming to be copying the worst of the diplomatic system when we could be aspiring for the best.

          Part of the reason I care is that many of the people who do Model UN will want to work for the UN itself. Many of them will end up as diplomats, politicians, public servants, and global figures of prominence. Do you really want to encourage the worst aspects of diplomacy for these people? Because what we teach in Model UN will be applied in the real world. Are you saying you want to perpetuate a cutthroat self-centered view of diplomacy?

  • GMXZT

    Best Delegate continues to rank college teams. Why are high school teams not afforded the same privilege? I hardly think competitiveness should be a deterrent in making rankings; shouldn’t all teams want to compete?

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      The feedback from the college circuit has not been the same as the feedback from the high school circuit. From what we are hearing:

      1. The college teams, especially those who attend university-hosted conferences, want the rankings. In contrast, some faculty advisors of top-ranked teams in high school (and hundreds of faculty advisors of non-ranked teams) do not believe rankings should exist in Model UN. Many teams do not believe MUN should be a competition, but that’s not mutually exclusive of a high quality conference experience.

      2. There are mentions of increase in competitiveness on both high school and college. However, high school advisors and students are expressing a concern about how rankings have created a toxic environment at conferences and between teams whereas there seems to be better camaraderie between college teams that see each other 4-5 times a year and know that winning for the sake of rankings would hurt their relationships in the long run.

      • Ervin Tankiang

        Tbh I would personally be in favour of you ditching college rankings as well, but I understand they’re still an entrenched and big part of the American system. I do think that this is a problem though, but maybe this isn’t the best place to debate this 😛

      • Michael

        I’m a bit confused as to the nature of your first argument. Are you saying that you provide rankings for the University level because people want them? If so, what evidence do you have that High School teams don’t want rankings? As you likely know from MUN, there’s a significant difference between anecdotal and empirical evidence and, thus far, your argument seems to lack evidence that shows a clear majority opinion.

        I’m a bit lost on your second argument as well. Are you saying that high school students don’t have the emotional intelligence to separate a simulation from a relationship? Most of the schools that are highly ranked (where they’d be subject to more competitiveness) attend 3-4 conferences a year. Is this so different from the college circuit that we should abolish rankings altogether?

        • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

          We based the decision on feedback from thought leaders within the activity. Examples cited in the article include faculty advisors of two different perennial top-ten teams who do not want rankings, and leaders of influential organizations such as the THIMUN Foundation and UN Department of Public Information who have spoken with us about our role with the rankings in Model UN as a whole. Teachers have a wide range of opinions — some love rankings and some hate it.

          From first-hand observation and conversations at a variety of high school and university conferences and from seeing students and teachers from ranked schools posting undiplomatic and hostile comments toward each other in the comments section of our conference recaps, it did not give our team confidence that some high school students (and some teachers!) are able to maturely handle the rankings. Of course, other high school students of ranked teams can handle an environment of healthy competition and are diplomatic toward other schools even when seeking to win, but we’ve seen enough of the negative behavior to believe that rankings are doing more harm than good for the community as a whole.

  • BestDelegate_Reader

    I couldn’t agree more with Nik below- everyone knows to take rankings with a grain of salt, because that’s the way quantitative descriptions work. The price we pay for simplicity is precision, and it’s obvious that one-dimensional rankings can’t describe an MUN team the same way that an SAT score can’t describe a human being.

    This is why Rankings succeed- however flawed they are, however narrow or insular or myopic or short-sighted, they’re transparent. You’re given the conditions, be they the number of awards won or multiple-choice questions answered, and you know that your comparison along that axis (whether you agree with it or not) is rigorous and well-defined.

    A broader Recognition system, however, is much more insidious- it decimates the quantitative comparison that underpins the Rankings system, and inculcates an even greater potential for abuse- as teams focus on strategically gaming Conferences within their region, at the expense of facing teams from across the country (something I know that Rankings pushed my old team to do). With that, of course, ends the era of united national competition that the inclusive Rankings system inaugurated.

    What I’d propose to broaden the system (for problems do exist) is a system similar to college rankings, where teams are ranked in quantifiable categories (e.g. number of awarded rookies, or number of Crisis gavels) that highlight their individual strengths, and are agglomerated to an overall ranking or rating. This allows us to cite “eccentric,” teams that don’t win across every category and broaden recognition, but doesn’t force us to sacrifice the information we glean, and the motivation we derive, from inclusive Rankings.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      Correct, rankings can not describe an entire program. There are high school programs that host conferences for 1,200 delegates, travel to three international conferences, have MUN as a class, do advocacy or civic engagement work using the lessons learned from MUN, etc. that do not rank highly (outside of top 50) or have never been ranked. Focusing on rankings takes away from all those other definitions of success. Colleges have the SAT, GPAs, extracurriculars, essays, and other info to attempt to holistically evaluate an applicant. MUN does not (yet?) have a system to recognize programs beyond their delegate awards.

      Ultimately, I don’t think people had an issue with the criteria or methodology. That had gone through multiple years of feedback and seemed to work for the most part (by the way, the college rankings use the same methodology as the high school rankings but without a cap on number of conferences; the narratives are just more specific). I think what people had an issue with is the existence of rankings in the first place.

      The new recognition system would be more simple. Teams that received a school delegation award at top conferences nationwide (they don’t have to just attend conferences within their region) will simply be recognized at a national level for something that they were already recognized for at that conference, so it’d be pretty objective as it’d be based on facts. The rankings methodology would still be retained for the largest conferences since the 3rd place or 4th place team at a 3,000+ conference probably deserves as much recognition as the 1st place team at a 500-delegate conference (if not more), but we will no longer determine which accomplishment is more valuable by eliminating place-ranks.

      I do think one down side is less national competition. That said, a good number of top-25 teams have traveled nationally for many years and will do so regardless of rankings. Very few non-top 50 teams can afford to travel outside their region, and teams outside of the Northeast and California are usually at a national disadvantage since their region contains fewer large conferences. And even some prominent top-25 teams say they do not have the finances or administration support to travel within their own region despite being perennially ranked. So in reality, it only impacts the decisions of a few top-50 teams that have only recently decided to travel, and hopefully there are other intrinsic incentives beyond being ranked to cause a team to decide to travel.

  • High School Delegate

    I think the new ranking system takes it half way there. The idea and platform of the change is incredible and BestDelegate should be applauded for taking this very important step toward creating more equality in Model UN.

    With that, there are still problems with the system. Schools that were winning a multitude of individual awards are the ones that are winning the delegation awards anyway, so the change there seems not large enough.

    Something that BestDelegate is possibly ignoring is the idea of prosperous clubs that are not always recognized as the top 25 schools, but are successful clubs regardless. If we are not just ranking, rather recognizing, schools should be recognized for increased membership, number of conferences attended and the rate of success at those conferences. If a school has recruited 20 new members, for example, and sent those members to three conferences, those students are learning and engaged, and the school should be recognized for that. There are several schools I know of that also have started day conferences which draw up to 300 students, although are not being recognized because they are not the most “cut-throat” and competitive of those at the university conferences. Shouldn’t those schools also be recognized for their efforts in progressing MUN?

    BestDelegate is taking the right step forward and should be applauded for their efforts, but needs to continue looking into the full picture of a schools accomplishments in the Model UN world.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      This is exactly the type of feedback we have been receiving. There are high school programs that host conferences for 1,200 delegates, travel to three international conferences, have MUN as a class, do advocacy or civic engagement work using the lessons learned from MUN, spread the MUN experience by recruiting and training new members (without an emphasis on awards), helped a neighboring school start a MUN club, etc. that do not rank highly (outside of top 50) or have never been ranked. Those successes are under-recognized as they are usually noted in individual articles that do not get nearly as much traffic as the rankings did.

      In addition, our own Media team has suggested recognizing individuals for performance beyond the awards. For example, showcasing a set of the best speeches, position papers, research binders (like the contest we held a few years ago), etc.

      There’s a lot of room for improvement. That takes time but is something that next year’s Media Secretariat can have the option to implement as they are increasingly given more leadership of the website.

  • http://www.onlinemodelunitednations.org Lisa Martin, THIMUN Online

    This is a philosophical shift and one that takes time to digest. THIMUN used to award Best Delegation status at its flagship conference in The Hague and discontinued the practice in 1996. Delegates in THIMUN-affiliated conferences find other ways to measure value and success in MUN, and I think they are more meaningful from a leadership and educational standpoint. Might be nice to hear from THIMUN delegates and ask them how it feels to be part of an MUN system that doesn’t award ‘Best’ status.

  • Ervin Tankiang

    BD has definitely moved in the right direction with this shift, and I’m a little concerned by some of the disapproving comments. Competition may be a good thing, and may encourage excellence, but at what cost? In any case, you still have a list of the best schools, and I don’t see how being in the Top 25 in this new system is any less of an achievement than being No.3 or No. 16 etc.

    I’m a veteran of the MUN circuit in Australia, and I’ve been at both Harvard WorldMUN and NMUN-NY. I’ve seen the consequences of an undue focus on the award and on the college ranking. I’ve seen what can be done when the delegates care more about their personal success rather than the success of the committee as a whole.

    This is the sort of culture that (unfortunately) a numerical ranking system perpetuates. Everyone wants to be no.1, and if that sort of system exists, then that will be what people aim for.

    Do we want this in Model UN? I thought the point of Model UN was producing globally-minded individuals who respect and hope to live up to the ideals of the United Nations. If you want something where the goal is to “win”, then pick up a competitive sport or debating or mock trial.

    • Kari Ann P.G

      I must agree with Ervin Tankiang , Miss Lisa Martin of THIMUN online, and Best Delegates decision.

      Model United nations is the institution of educating young students whether in middle school or college, about international relations and decisions in the international community that effect us all. Whether you are representing DPRK or The United States of America, you learn about their foreign policy and how to represent that nations policy at the topic at hand. Diplomacy between nations and compromise is learned through these conferences, and you make friends for a lifetime that have different backgrounds and things to teach you from their culture and ideas.

      However, I have seen the negative effects of rankings etc in conferences. True a bit of competitive spirit is alright and can give you the confidence you need to raise your place card and ask a point of information, but the rankings, cliques between schools, and usb stealing for someones hard work within their resolution, is an effect of this in most cases. Instead of focusing on the topic and trying to become a better delegate aware of International Issues they are too busy focusing on becoming the top ranked or stealing someones usb or ripping alliances apart through anything but diplomacy.

      As Ervin has just said in the comment above me, “This is the sort of culture that (unfortunately) a numerical ranking system perpetuates. Everyone wants to be no.1, and if that sort of system exists, then that will be what people aim for.
      Do we want this in Model UN? I thought the point of Model UN was producing globally-minded individuals who respect and hope to live up to the ideals of the United Nations. If you want something where the goal is to “win”, then pick up a competitive sport or debating or mock trial.”

      So looking at both sides brought up- I believe Best Delegate you have made a decision that will lead to meaningful and diplomatic delegates not worried about rankings, but worried about making a difference and learning from others.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      I would add that rankings may have encouraged competition, but it definitely is not the only cause of competition. Competitiveness at major conferences that give out awards (individual and/or school) have existed long before this website — high school students tried to steal USB sticks when I was a delegate — and will continue to exist as long as awards exist. And awards exist for many reasons. If teams do not want awards in Model UN, then they should provide strong feedback to the conferences directly.

      • Ervin Tankiang

        Definitely don’t disagree with you. NMUN is a good case in point. Much of the same behaviour happens there as at the conferences where rankings are at stake.

        I actually don’t think the fundamental problem is awards, or even rankings, even though both contribute. The problem is in the mindsets of people who do MUN – people who do MUN for their own personal glory as opposed to any altruistic and larger reasons will always find a reason to be competitive and self-serving.

  • JJred

    You mentioned in one of the comments that bestdelegate is looking to address issues of recognizing universities who work hard at conferences outside of the World Circuit.
    How do you all intend to go about doing this? I believe the content of this website focuses far too much on the World Circuit and Ivy League schools because their system makes it easier for rankings.
    Despite this many other universities deserve to be recognized for their hard work at these respectable conferences that produce delegates who could do just as well in the aforementioned circuits.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      In terms of content, the Media Chair of USA University for next year needs to do a better job reaching out to a variety of conferences and explaining the value of sharing their side of MUN through articles. There’s been difficulty to that in the past because a) the Media team members were not as familiar with those conferences or the one Media team we had who attended NMUN did not end up producing any content, b) those conferences didn’t want to be featured on the website because they did not want to be associated with rankings or were non-responsive in emails, and c) in the case of one major conference that we wanted to visit, they were not interested in having outside media observe, take photos and speak with delegates during committee sessions which made liveblogging difficult.

      In terms of recognition, these conferences give out a large number of school awards (for example, 50+ Outstanding Delegations between the two NMUN conferences alone) so a ranking would not make sense. Perhaps simply listing these 50 Outstanding Delegations as the best teams in the world for this circuit in a single tier would make more sense. It becomes difficult to tier if we tried to integrate other conferences that give out a high number of school awards because then you would have a massive list of Outstanding Delegations; in that case, you would just have a standing list of all school award winners without valuing one conference over another (e.g. NMUN is not more prestigious than SRMUN or AMUN).

      I think it becomes troublesome when delegates try to compare themselves across circuits and make claims that they are better than delegates on the other circuit, because in reality there’s little overlap and no objective data to say who is better. But if universities wanted that, then the easiest way to do it is to take the 50+ Outstanding Delegations from NMUN, and then balance it out with the top 25 teams for each of the two other major conferences, HNMUN and WorldMUN, that combined equal the size of the two NMUNs and list this as a global top 100 into a single tier.

      At the end of the day, this website aims to promote Model United Nations and that means having different sides of Model UN represented accurately. It would be good for those who participate at different conferences to leave suggestions on how to best recognize their peers.

      • JJred

        I see how such circumstances can hamper any efforts. Overall, as someone who has attended NMUN for 5 years, it seems the conference itself is trying to disassociate itself from the rankings as you stated. The reason being is, though not entirely rejecting competitiveness, they try hard not to make the conference into a system where schools can be particularly singled out in fear of a backlash. This has happened as it is becoming evident that a select handful of schools are seemingly dominating both conferences handily for the past 4 or 5 years. This of course leads to complaints.

        Recently many schools have wanted to do away with awards. Other schools find that unacceptable and want to make awards more selective. Its sort of a tug o war between those who value it as an educational experience and those who also value a competitive edge. One of the main issues is that there have been complaints from a few schools about “power delegates” who don’t really have issue knowledge but are loud to make themselves noticeable in order to get their delegation in outstanding award contention. Though having delegate skills isn’t a bad thing, there certainly is a balance between having knowledge and delegate skills that can lean too much in one direction.
        At any rate, since Best Delegate is really the main website for Model UN related information regarding students I think it should still try its best in incorporating recognition for schools in such circuits. Many do an outstanding job and consistently produce quality delegates.
        Now we understand that rankings are probably out of the question considering that NMUN and others seem to not want to be associated with them. (Or the staff don’t at least) There can be various other methods such as featuring some universities who consistently perform well at such circuits.

        FOR EXAMPLE:
        Other ways to identify possible universities to distinguish if they have done anything above or beyond the typical threshold to be outstanding. Lets use NMUN as an example. There are three tier systems of awards: Outstanding, distinguished and honorable mention. Obviously those schools who get outstanding are often more recognized. However universities can be more distinguished if you look at achievements that go beyond making it into the “outstanding” list. Here are some examples of ways to distinguish schools in this circuit for their achievement.

        *Some schools bring two delegations and in recent years both of their delegations received outstandings.

        *There are also supplemental delegate’s choice and position paper awards. Analyzing what schools consistently win such awards in each committee can also be used as an indicator.

        *Viewing what schools have consistently been outstanding every year.

        Perhaps finding ways to feature or distinguish such schools without developing rankings could be provided. Feedback is welcome.

        • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

          There isn’t a consensus in terms of whether awards should exist in MUN or at any particular conference (even at NMUN), and of course a wide variety of delegate styles, skills, and personalities exist. That’s real life and I think delegates who learn from interacting with different people including power delegates will come out stronger from that experience.

          There’s definitely some data that can help differentiate schools at NMUN. The question is if universities want to be differentiated or would they rather just have public recognition outside of NMUN of their factual accomplishment at NMUN. Recognizing schools for winning two Outstanding Delegations or for having more position paper or delegate choice awards would ultimately create tiers — it would be positive for those few teams but end up devaluing the rest of the Outstanding Delegation schools who see their accomplishments as equal and like to tell their local press that they are one of the best teams in the world. I suspect differentiating between Outstanding Delegations is not what the vast majority of the NMUN schools would want.

  • Ab25

    Unlike many on this thread I have been one to see MUN only through the eyes of a ranking system. I started participating the year that BD started doing its high school ranking and I’ve seen great change in my team….for good and for bad.

    The Good:

    Pre- 2010 our high school team had very good delegates, probably better ones than we had afterwards, but we never performed well. Why? There was no team motive. The leaders of the club would try to take committees that were guaranteed wins for themselves. The other members would just have to wait it out. In fall 2010 when best delegate first posted the ranking methodology our CLUB finally had something to work towards. Not just individuals…but a team. The leaders started thinking about strategy: placing people committees where they perform / learn the most. We started having training sessions weekly..something that was almost unheard of in the organization at the time. And every committee session, every conference now had a purpose to it.

    – As far as pure educational value goes we probably gained more too. Every member stayed up at night researching…not just for their own award..but because we knew that we were putting the team on our back. As I mentioned beforehand our club started having training sessions. Experienced members would sit down and explain to the novices their topics. I probably learned more from those conversations than I did from any book or Wikipedia article. In that regard it was great.

    – Finally here’s the point that I disagree with the most. A lot of advisors say that rivalry is bad. Not if you take it the right way. When schools would beat us we wouldn’t have hostility towards them. In fact the best friends I made on the MUN circuit were from other highly competitive schools. I’m sure other delegates can attest to that. What we did instead was we learned from them. We started training harder, researching more and working more so we could be as good as them. This was healthy competition at its finest.

    The Bad:

    A couple years into the ranking system, when I took on a leadership role of my team I realized the other impacts the ranking system had imparted.

    – When going to conferences our strategy completely changed. We would have to base the number of kids we selected for our team based on the delegation award we wanted to win. We would be prioritizing the award over the number of kids we would take. Yes we maintained our winning streak but at what cost? Having the ends justify the means was terrible.

    – Each conference has a different algorithm for determining school awards. So having a certain awards in certain types of committees at some conference would be weighted more than another. This raised great frustration because schools did not know what to aim for. Having been on both the winning and losing side of the situation this made no sense.

    —————————

    So where do we go with this. The current idea of recognition would be meaningless. Instead, as someone suggested have a database of awards (not only delegation but also individual) at conferences. This way schools would not have to reduce delegation size because individual awards would be displayed. Secondly, competition would still be maintained just BD would not decide rankings. Readers could decide themselves.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      Thanks for sharing insight into how rankings have both positively and negatively impacted your team.

      Just to clarify, your suggestion is to have a standing page of all school and individual awards? If so, then hopefully conferences are willing to be that transparent. Overall transparency has increased significantly since the start of the rankings.

      And in your opinion, sharing the school delegation award winners from all conferences (plus a few other top teams at the largest conferences) in one article would not be meaningful recognition? Is there a way to make this meaningful?

  • Michael

    You wrote that “it comes down to what specific skills and knowledge you want students to get out of MUN,” and I would argue that strong public speaking, researching, and negotiating skills are inherently valuable. These are also exactly what awards are determined by. It’s a complete fallacy that a student who is simply more competitive could win over one who has deeply indulged in the educational nature of MUN. At the end of the day, awards aren’t a reflection of competition and don’t serve to increase pressure and emotional tension. The serve to incentivize learning and reward the hard work students have put into learning about global issues.

    You can easily recognize the value of simply attending a MUN conference and still have rankings. Valuing some delegations does not discredit others. It simply makes them work harder to get the most out of that activity.

    Rankings also build MUN as a team activity. Working to win delegation awards and place internationally requires that every member of the team be working hard to win awards (much like in sports). The emphasis rankings put on team achievements leads to the growth of clubs as a whole and the values that are learned through such cooperation (which are often similar to those learned in MUN). If Best Delegate does intend to release individual rankings (Best Rookie, Best Crisis, etc…) they will divide teams and create competition within the schools themselves. I ask you to reward the work that we, as teams, put in together, and the only way to do this is through school rankings.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      I don’t disagree with your thoughts about the objectives of MUN and I’ve acknowledged that competition and education are not mutually exclusive, but I’m wondering why there are not enough incentives already.

      Individual awards already exist to reward the hard work of students. Delegation awards already exist to reward the hard work of teams. Conferences could give more awards if they wanted to reward more students (e.g. SOCOMUN with ~40% of the committee receiving individual awards) or teams (e.g. NMUN with 75 team delegation awards). Best Delegate is still going to recognize teams as the best in their region for performance across all conferences, but the major difference is that it is tiered as a single list instead of place-ranked. [Best Delegate has never believed in individual rankings, although peers do nominate and vote for their peers as “All-Stars” for holistic leadership on the college circuit]

      Are these forms of external recognition not enough to satisfy the objectives? Are rankings the only way to achieve them?

  • Michael

    You continue to cite faculty advisors as the driving force for this decision. I personally know of dozens of advisors (of teams ranked and unranked) who vehemently oppose the abolishment of rankings. If you plan to make such a decision, in part, based on the common beliefs of all MUN teams, would you accept a petition from MUN teams across North America that would like to see the publication of standings? If you won’t accept a petition, it’d be great to have some hard data on how many faculty advisors you have spoken to that support this decision.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      In my reply to your other comment, I mentioned that we based the decision based on feedback from thought leaders within the MUN activity. But we (Ryan and Kevin) also speak with hundreds of teachers and students during our in-person visits at a wide range of conferences (primarily in North America but also worldwide) every year.

      There’s definitely no consensus. Readers on this website tend to favor the rankings since we had published them (there’s also a vocal minority against the rankings on this website), whereas opinions are more evenly split in real life conferences. It’s important to keep the community as a whole in mind since this website does not exist in a vacuum and can impact MUN participants who do not read or choose not to follow this website.

      In our opinion, majority support for one way or the other is great and that’s usually how we base our decisions. We want to publish what the community wants to see and we tend to cater to the majority. The exception is when majority support for something is significantly harming the minority and their experience in Model UN. I’m not sure which side forms the majority or minority in real life, but there is a significant number of teams across the continent who’ve independently brought up concerns about the negative impact of the rankings on the activity.

  • Concerned MUNer

    And political correctness/We-don’t-want-to-offend-anyone syndrome enlarges its domain with another fell swoop. How I weep for our society.

    • Ervin Tankiang

      Way to cheapen the entire argument and discussion of this issue.

      Step out from behind your pithy one-liners and your internet anonymity and actually argue your point.

      • Concerned MUNer

        To put it quite simply, the people who complain about the rankings system inevitably feel that they have been slighted by their lack of standing in the ranked Model UN world, or feel that competition it somehow detrimental to the Model UN experience. In almost all certainty, both of these concerns are caused by their own, or their delegates’ lack of skill in Model UN. As has been pointed out by other users, the ACTUAL United Nations is not some hippy commune where all of the nations of the world come together to reach universal consensus on the issues of the day. If we lived in a world like this, there wouldn’t have to BE a UN. Rather, we see an organization where states aggressively promote their own agendas, and fight tooth and nail against the conflicting agendas of other countries. We see a similar climate in Model UN, where delegates must align themselves with the foreign policies of their own countries, and use the same aggressive behaviour as is used in real diplomacy to try and assert their represented country as being the most apt diplomatically. Now, this climate being heavily incentivized by the reward/ranking system, if we allow Model UN to continue down this non-competitive path, we will inevitably see conferences become meaningless events where people pay a lot of money to sit around and do the opposite of simulating the UN. And it’s a bloody shame, because it’s all been brought about by the Palestines of the Model UN world, schools who want to be recognized for having done nothing, and who are like a jealous child who didn’t get the Christmas gift that his best friend got. Since their lack of competitiveness has made them jealous of those who have risen to the simulated diplomatic challenge, they want to cry and scream and make it worse for EVERYONE who is above them in the hierarchy, only so that they feel like they are on more of an equal footing with all of the players involved. I’ve seen it time and again from the staff advisors of other schools, and all that I can say is SHAME ON THEM.

        • JJred

          I feel for you because this is exactly why we can’t have nice things such as rankings in the International Circuit which is full of all the NMUN competitors. The conference has gotten so political that it has been decided its not “educational” to use rankings.
          They also expanded the awards vastly so everyone “feels like a winner.” Needless to say, the conference has been slowly going down the tubes in terms of quality.

  • Nikki

    Although this decision may seem rational to many, it sanctimoniously preaches that Model UN will become ‘more competitive’ which somehow induces a ‘negative effect’. Best Delegate stated that conferences are becoming too competitive and that is somehow a bad thing. The weighted-conferences allows delegations to learn more by being able to compete against those who are on par or better which is a strong incentive to work hard henceforth learning more. This is the main goal of Model UN, to hone ones public speaking and retain a competent understanding of the world we live in. In order for this to occur, there has to be sufficient competition and enthusiasm. Best delegate also keeps proclaiming that this is to make conferences less competitive and then they stated that they will distribute individual awards. This negatively impacts the community as individuals will become more competitive even with other members of the same delegation which will rather disabuse the prevalent model un notion of working together. I strongly encourage that this decision be revoked on the grounds that it is unprecedented and has a myriad of negative ramifications.

    • http://bestdelegate.com/ Best Delegate

      In our opinion, there is a difference between competition and high quality of debate. Neither one is bad on its own. Competition can enhance the quality of debate. But it could also detract from it.

      An example of relatively common competitive behavior is stealing a USB key so that a rival delegate is at a disadvantage in committee. This runs counter to your stated MUN goals of honing one’s public speaking and retaining a competent understanding of the world they live in as the delegate have their best ideas and hard work taken away from them, unless the primary lessons are not substantive about the actual issues but rather a) they should have their document taken away from them before they speak or b) the world is not fair. We think Model UN can do better — challenge each other on the quality of speeches, debate, ideas, and negotiation rather than on trying to screw over other delegates using petty competitive tactics.

      The changes do not change the fact that the best delegations still have the choice to attend major conferences that have developed a reputation for more than sufficient competition and enthusiasm years before this website was created. The best teams have been attending those same conferences for decades, kept their core conference schedules during the rankings years, and we suspect will continue going to these conferences to meet the best and the brightest.

      One item to clarify — we do not plan to distribute or publish individual awards. We’re not sure where readers are getting that.

      • Nikki

        Best delegate is good for one thing…wait…WAS good.

  • anonymous

    If you really want to move away from competitiveness, why are you still selling a book on how to become a Best Delegate? Seems like a pretty scattered mission to me.

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