What are Blocs?
When you first walk into your committee room, it can be easy to be overwhelmed with the number of people in the room competing with you. Thoughts about who is trustworthy and who you want to avoid at all costs may swirl around in your head.
The delegates you work with on your resolution paper or directives are considered as part of your bloc. These are the delegates in the room who are aligned with your views, share a common goal, and/or generally speaking, are people you find to be trustworthy and easy to work with.
In this tutorial, you will learn about the common types of delegates found at conferences all over the circuit and how to decide which ones to work with in your bloc. Additionally, you will learn strategies to help you lead your bloc and successfully maneuver common situations faced by blocs in Model United Nations.
When do Blocs Form?
Blocs will generally begin to form in the first couple of unmoderated caucuses. It is important to note that in General Assembly committees, it is expected for blocs to remain relatively stable once paper writing begins, and nobody likes a bloc hopper, or someone who jumps between different blocs during the writing period. Bloc hopping is a very quick way to put yourself on the back burner of committee discussion and be ignored by other delegates in the room.
In crisis, blocs are much more fluid due to the faster-paced nature of committee. Because the main subjects of committee change very rapidly, it is unlikely that you will be working with the same delegates during the entire course of committee. However, this only means that you need to employ the preliminary bloc formation strategies more often, not that the way to form blocs changes.
Common Types of Delegates and How to Approach Them
On the Model United Nations circuit, there are several ‘archetypes’ of delegates that you will repeatedly see. Though the people you encounter may not always fit these descriptions to a tea, use these guides as reference for what to look out for when deciding who to include in your bloc.
These are the delegates who never seem to stop talking–and loud at that. The loudmouth delegates are the people in the room who try very hard to be power delegates, but simply do not have the skills or charisma to get people to like them. Simply put, these delegates are all bark and no bite.
Strategy: Try to avoid working with these delegates if at all possible. If they are in your bloc, they will likely try to strong-arm the whole bloc, and take control of the paper. This just ends up drawing others away from wanting to join your bloc, and resulting in the creation of a poorly written paper. Talking about how annoying they are to other delegates who seem equally annoyed by their behavior can be a good strategy for getting people on your side.
These delegates come prepared with a full binder of research at the ready. They are usually the most well-prepared people in the room, but hardly ever the most well-spoken or powerful people in the room.
Strategy: Find these delegates and try to bring them into your bloc as soon as possible. If you flatter their ideas and compliment their research generously, it will be easier to bring them to your bloc. Because they don’t try to gain too much power or influence, you can still retain leadership in your bloc, while benefiting from their strong ideas in your paper.
The bros are the delegates who sit in the back of the committee room and don’t really participate. Many wonder why they are even there in the first place–likely because their teacher or school required them to be there or they want to get excused absences from school. Regardless of that, the bros will probably sit in the corner and play video games for the entire conference.
Strategy: Even though the bros won’t add much substance, if any at all, to your paper, they are still easy numbers to get on your side. Because they don’t really care about the formalities of Model UN, you should approach them with a very casual tone and demeanor. Crack a few jokes and make some pop culture references, then ask them if they want to join you. You can even poke a little fun at Model UN to bring them to your bloc. When they join, you don’t really need to assert leadership over them or delegate tasks to them. Just ask them “what’s up” every once and a while to keep them in your bloc.
These people are characterized by their anxious demeanor and lack of parliamentary procedure knowledge. This is likely their first conference, and won’t hesitate to tell you that. They are usually very nice and receptive to help, but do not really know what they are supposed to do.
Strategy: These people are also great to provide numbers for your bloc. They may also be able to assist in writing your paper by typing up preambulatory clauses and fixing the grammar on the paper. Approach these delegates by offering support and help and being nice to them. Remember that this is their first experience in the Model UN sphere and that they are probably overwhelmed and just need a friend. Once you have them on your side, make sure they always feel included and delegate tasks to them.
The True Power Delegate
These are the people the loudmouths think they are. The true power delegates are confident but not cocky, vocal but not loud. They are smart, well-spoken, and most of all, relatively nice to everyone. They are able to lead but do so in a way that doesn’t anger anyone else or resort to dirty tricks to cut people out and secure victory. Ideally, this is the type of delegate you should strive to be.
Strategy: Be on their good side, but try to not include them in your bloc or paper. They are extremely good at winning people to their side, so including them in your bloc could be a death sentence for your goal of becoming the leader of the bloc.
You found the most ideal delegates to be in your bloc. Now it is time to secure leadership and show the dais that you are the head of your bloc! This is one of the most important stages of a Model UN conference, because it is nearly impossible to win a gavel if you are not the face of your bloc. A good measure to see if the rest of the room considers you to be a bloc leader is to listen in and see how people refer to your bloc. If you are representing Mexico and everyone calls your bloc “Mexico’s bloc”, there is a very good chance that you have attained a leadership role in the bloc.
Strategies for Gaining Bloc Leadership
If you have attended a Model UN Conference before, you have likely received a note at the very beginning of the first committee session asking if you want to meet up during an unmod. These notes, though common, are a good tool to gather people and select who you want to work with before the first unmod actually happens. This strategy won’t have as much impact on more experienced delegates, but is definitely super helpful for newer delegates who do not know what is happening. Additionally, in these notes you should give some sort of compliment, such as “Great speech!” or “I really like your ideas!” in order to give more meaning to the note. Then select a place in the room and write that the delegate should meet you there in the first unmod in order to work together and form a bloc. Don’t forget to write who the note is from. Because you are the one opening the line of communication, you have a stronger ability to dictate who joins your bloc, as well as who is the head of it.
For the first few unmods, it is very common for delegates to meet up and group up into circles in order to discuss ideas for papers. During this time, ensure firstly that you are in the circle, and secondly that you are leading the discussion. Even if you are not speaking the entire time, you should try to be the person who is moderating and guiding the discussion. This would include bringing up questions about ideas as well as dictating who should speak. A great way to show leadership skills is by sticking up for the more shy delegates in the circle who consistently get talked over and interrupted. There is a lot of dignity in getting the group to listen to that delegate because you intervened and called out the poor behavior. Additionally, include these quieter delegates in the circle, because they often have the strongest ideas and can be powerful allies once your bloc has formed.
Who Makes the Paper
Once it is time to begin writing your paper, make sure you are the one who creates the document or supplies the paper. This attaches your name and your resources to the paper, and can create a subconscious understanding that this paper is yours, and your blocmates were working for you. Additionally, make sure you are the one who submits the draft resolution or directive to the dais, so they associate the paper with you as well.
Be a Person, Not Just a Delegate
Model UN is stressful for a lot of people, so it can be a good strategy to act casual and friendly with your bloc to calm down any stress of nerves. It is okay to forgo formal language and conventions when talking and working with your bloc. Just be careful to make sure you do not act stupid when the dais walks around and listens in to conversations during unmods. You can also find time to grab a meal with other delegates in your bloc during breaks to solidify a bond between you all.
The Delegate that Delegates
Leaders in any organization or situation will know how to divide and assign tasks to the best people for each job. Being a bloc leader in Model UN is no different. You should speak with your bloc and divide up tasks and give them to each delegate that is best suited to complete that task. This will put you in a position of power and influence in order to sway the direction of your paper. Just be careful to not condescend or talk down to any other members of your bloc, as this can cause resentment and retaliation.
As all delegates know, the Model UN community is small. The best way to ensure consistent success is to have a strong reputation as being someone who is easy and fun to work with. By being nice in committee, you will begin to make more connections with delegates, who will then return to their own Model UN delegations and schools and talk well about you. Then if you encounter any of those other delegates who have heard about you in a future committee, you may have an easier time aligning with them.
Navigating Bloc Challenges
Authors’ Panel Sessions
One of the most difficult challenges that blocs will inevitably face is the decision of who should go up to represent the paper during presentation and Q&A sessions, also known as authors’ panel. Generally, the dais will limit the number of delegates who are able to go up to speak or answer questions during this period. Most of the time, the number will be somewhat less than the number of delegates in each bloc, forcing blocs to decide who will represent their paper.
It is always very important to ensure that you are one of the delegates who is able to go up to speak during this period. Being a definitive bloc leader and well-liked will almost certainly guarantee you a spot. From there, then ensure that the other delegates going up with you are ones who will make your bloc appear strong and knowledgeable but without stealing your spotlight or speaking time.
Mergers generally happen after all papers have been written and submitted, for GA. This means you will have had more than enough time to solidify yourself as the de facto leader of the bloc. When it comes time to begin merger negotiations, you should always be the representative for your bloc, and the one who instigates the discussions with other blocs. You should be an advocate for all of the delegates in your bloc as well as the content of your paper.
During mergers, it is common for the number of sponsors to be limited. Seeing as you are the bloc leader, you should automatically be a sponsor on the merged paper, and act as a facilitator for discussions about who else from your bloc gets to remain as a sponsor on the new merged paper.
Bloc formation and leadership attainment are often some of the most challenging, but most important parts of being successful at a Model United Nations conference. With these tips and strategies in mind, you can get people on your side and secure your position in your bloc!