North American Invitational Model United Nations (NAIMUN) Featured Series: An Inside Look at the Development of the Conference

by KFC on January 25, 2012

Note: This article is Part 1 of a five-part featured series on NAIMUN XLIX. Learn more about the series here

Over 200 Georgetown students were selected to staff this year's NAIMUN conference, and they are ready to meet all the delegates in a few weeks!

In March 2011, less than a month after the completion of NAIMUN XLVIII, Secretary-General Taylor Wettach and Executive Director Caitlin Pharo were selected as the conference executives for NAIMUN XLIX.  Having worked as Deputy Undersecretary-General (dUSG) of Cabinets and Director of Registration, respectively, for NAIMUN XLVIII, Taylor and Caitlin knew how much needed to be put into NAIMUN to make it one of the finest conferences on the high school circuit.  This experience encouraged extensive research into NAIMUN’s past successes and struggles; both came into their positions with a vision of where NAIMUN had been, and where it could go.  Ultimately, the direction of NAIMUN XLIX would be decided by the merger of these visions, and also the visions of almost 200 Georgetown University students who volunteer their time for NAIMUN.

The preparation for NAIMUN XLIX began with the development of long-term strategic goals.  Sitting down in the week after their selection, Caitlin and Taylor devised a series of objectives in substance, staff, and delegate experience; a refinement of the logistical process; a timeline for when these goals would be achieved.  NAIMUN’s co-executive structure presents each conference executive with a focus—substantive development for the Secretary-General, logistics and out-of-committee programming for the Executive Director.  Despite this structure, Caitlin and Taylor immediately developed a fluid working relationship.  The day-to-day operations often did not need a strict dialogue, but important decisions both in and out of committee often would rely on the consensus of both executives.

Once NAIMUN XLIX’s strategic foundations were established, the Conference Executives turned toward the selection of staff.  NAIMUN’s Secretariat requires a variety of people and skill sets.  Many of the positions under the Executive Director, informally termed “E-Side,” required differentiated skill sets- Director of Marketing relying on a history and capacity for communication work, and Director of Registration requiring particularly strong organizational capacities, for example. The position of Under Secretary-General and Deputy Under Secretary-General (the “Sub Side”) required a combination of Model UN knowledge and leadership capacity, with special attention paid to compatibility in paired USGs/ dUSGs and MUN background in choice of organ.

With the Secretariat selected, in April the Sub Side chose a series of committees that ran the full gamut of Model UN.  However, while an entire conference-worth of committees were selected for the application, it was a particular goal for NAIMUN XLIX to select committees that were proposed by prospective staff members.  This derived from the philosophy that committees proposed by staffers with a strong topical interest and experience have a tendency to have greater substantive depth and passionate execution.

With committees, and subsequent staff chosen, NAIMUN XLIX wrapped up the school year with organ and committee meetings, and a social event to begin bringing the staff together.  NAIMUN XLIX has put a particular focus on the social bonds of staffers, seeking to both provide rewards for staff dedication and better delegate experience resulting from staff dedication.  Greater focus has been put on organ events, seeking to use competition to produce a better, more dedicated staff.  Ultimately, the organ with the best rate of success as judged by turn-out for events, quality work, and more, is awarded the coveted NAIMUN Cup.

Work on NAIMUN didn’t stop in the summer.  Sub Side and General Staff worked to develop the substance of committees: topics to be covered, countries or persons to be represented, a plan for information to be covered in the background guide, and more.  Ultimately, this early planning allows NAIMUN’s staff to be that much more sure of the substance covered in committees, and to allow more time to be allocated to the process of writing background guides and training for committees.

The coming of fall saw the addition of new, excited NAIMUN staff.  Many of these staffers are freshmen, with over 200 applicants competing for around 70 spots.  NAIMUN XLIX worked to integrate these new staffers into committees through a series of staff and organ events.  Working across fall, NAIMUN’s complete staff worked to confirm its plans, and began working on background guides for committees.  To ensure the best possible background guides, a premium is put on dedicated, often lengthy research.

Beyond all the work put in by Sub Side, E Side works on more behind the scenes NAIMUN preparation.  One of NAIMUN’s proudest traditions is its commitment to ensuring that the out-of-committee experience is just as engrossing and interesting as the in-committee experience.  For this reason, NAIMUN has long sought to expose delegates to opportunities particularly relevant to Model UN, and also show delegates just how much NAIMUN’s home in Washington DC has to offer.  NAIMUN is centrally located in Dupont Circle, a vibrant neighborhood, which is also convenient for accessing some of DC’s greatest treasures.

Each year, NAIMUN organizes Embassy Briefings for various delegations.  The process for this begins after committee assignments are distributed in November.  NAIMUN tracks down specific contacts at any Embassy for which a briefing is requested, and through endless phone calls and emails, schedules as many briefings as possible.  This way, delegates have the chance, early in the conference (Friday morning, to be exact) to talk to a professional who represents the same country in the real world that they are representing at NAIMUN.  NAIMUN also arranges for delegates to visit such DC hallmarks as the Pentagon, offering delegates insight into how the American government makes and practices its foreign policy.

NAIMUN hopes to remind its delegates of their own capability to make a difference in the world.  For the past several years, NAIMUN has designated an official conference charity, and has encouraged delegates and staffers alike to donate throughout the weekend.  Last year saw NAIMUN take this effort to new heights, raising over $25,000 for Free the Children, a charity dedicated to youth education and empowerment.  This year, NAIMUN XLIX hopes to meet that same goal with this year’s charity, charity:water (http://www.charitywater.org/).  NAIMUN hopes delegates will find their ability to give thousands of people on the other side of the world access to such a basic resource as clean water just as compelling as NAIMUN staffers do.

Of course, one of the things that define NAIMUN is its incredible staff of over 200 Georgetown University students.  Each year, NAIMUN puts on an event known as ‘Hilltop Madness,’ which showcases some of the best things about Georgetown (besides MUN!).  Various performance groups from the University come to NAIMUN in order to show high school delegates what they will find in college beyond academics.

In addition to putting on events like these for delegates, E Side is responsible for all of the logistics of the conference.  This means figuring out the best way to ensure that each delegate, moderator and staffer has as stress-free an experience as possible.  Whether it is working with our hotel, the Washington Hilton, to figure out which committees belong in which rooms, or ordering pens and padholders for each delegate, E Side has worked on it in one way or another.

As you read this article, NAIMUN XLIX is less than a month away.  A lot of development has taken place, but the few months prior to the conference bring new challenges: the detailed logistics of producing a massive conference, the training and re-training of staffers, and much more.  While a conference like NAIMUN XLIX can already seem “big” from the delegate-perspective—4 days, 200 staff, and over 3000 delegates—there is more still that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the 4 days of the conference are the best possible.

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