In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, Sophia Hlavaty and Irene Kwon of Philips Andover Academy found themselves rekindling friendships from Model UN conferences. Having made connections to countless delegates throughout their years of experience, they wanted to create an online Model UN experience that would bring the international Model UN community together. A skilled secretariat was put together and a team of over 70 MUNners followed shortly after, as was the name Global Leaders Online Model United Nations (GLOMUN).
GLOMUN is unlike any other virtual Model UN conference in its design and its impact. The two-day conference takes place on Gatherly, a new virtual platform that places delegates in a hotel simulation, with different floors, an elevator, and conference rooms. Gatherly allows delegates to use their computer to move into different blocs, which has been one of the biggest issues with the popular platform, Zoom. GLOMUN has generous sponsors that allowed the team to purchase real gavels as awards, to ship anywhere around the world.
Most importantly to the GLOMUN team, however, all of the proceeds from registration fees will go to the World Health Organization, contributing to the COVID-19 relief fund. Model UN has taught delegates to give back to their communities, and GLOMUN is no exception to that standard.
GLOMUN has over 10 different committees, including 5 GA’s, 3 ECOSOC/Specialized, and 5 Crisis simulations. To register, head over to glomun.org!
Below is an interview with the Secretaries-General, Irene Kwon and Zoey Fisher, who further talk about the unique aspects of GLOMUN as well as the behind-the-scenes of running a virtual conference.
1. Not only is GLOMUN entirely online, but it is also two days long, which is unique in and of itself. Typically, delegates are used to participating in short one-day conferences or conferences that last three to four days. Why did you choose to make GLOMUN a two-day conference? What, if anything, do you think the two-day time frame of GLOMUN will bring to the conference?
Originally, we planned GLOMUN as a one day conference. After putting in many hours of work into making the conference as close to an in-person collegiate level conference as possible, we changed direction and decided to extend the duration. Our decision involved many important factors. We realized that the work we were putting into GLOMUN was sufficient for a multi-day conference. Another important factor in our decision making was the conference schedule. Because our delegates hail from nearly every time zone, we had to coordinate the conference schedule in a way that accommodates delegates living farthest to the East and West. This resulted in shorter committee days. We also planned to have proper opening and closing ceremonies with a keynote speaker. This is very unusual for online conferences that are typically one day. Our short committee day would not allow for plenary sessions and adequate committee time, so we decided to extend GLOMUN and officially make it a two-day event. We feel that this decision will allow delegates to delve even deeper into their topics and debate more complex issues. We hope that by the end of the two days our participants will emerge having had meaningful engagements and learning valuable lessons from their GLOMUN staffers and peers!
2. What, if anything, is something unique or special the GLOMUN committee chairs, co-chairs, staff, etc. bring to this conference in light of hosting the conference online?
I think that after experiencing the process of planning an online conference, every member of the GLOMUN staff now brings a unique perspective to MUN. I know that our chairs and staffers will be ready to share their knowledge and wisdom with delegates and guide them on how to run similar events in the future. Our chairs and committee staffers also come from a really diverse MUN background. We have experts in both UNA-USA and THIMUN procedure as well as experienced crisis delegates and a whole set of staff members who will be specializing in our Spanish speaking committee. The wide range of knowledge they bring, in terms of MUN, opens up unlimited possibilities for us and allows GLOMUN to accommodate delegates who are familiar with different procedures and languages. I think that the virtual nature of the conference really facilitates this and allows us to diversify our committees in ways many conferences never thought possible.
3. List one specific way GLOMUN will utilize technology during the conference? Have you been able to incorporate technology more efficiently? Do you believe the use of technology will improve the delegates’ experiences? Will it improve the committees’ experiences?
The GLOMUN staff has worked tremendously hard to develop cutting edge virtual programming. We know that we will never be able to fully replicate the environment of in-person conferences, so instead we have decided to embrace technology and create a new Model UN experience for delegates. In order to stay engaged and connected we have been trying to utilize our social media as much as possible. Some interesting programming taking place on our Instagram includes our Town Hall series, during which we have interviewed collegiate MUN leaders from Yale and UPenn. We also have Town Halls planned with other organizations such as Women in MUN and the creators of Gatherly, the platform we will be using during the conference. In addition to that we have collaborated with other virtual MUN programs and even participated in a podcast series. Our team is extremely dedicated to ensuring that all delegates feel comfortable using technology and our platforms. GLOMUN staff recently came together to film demo videos on our Gatherly server. Despite many bloopers because many of us haven’t done MUN in a few months, we have been able to put together a comprehensive tutorial that will be aired on our Instagram. Additionally, we will be running multiple staff trainings and open our Gatherly room for delegates to get comfortable with the system a few weeks before the conference. Stay tuned for more information on how to get involved in that!
4. Do you believe there have been any unique challenges while preparing for a conference held entirely online? If so, have you overcome these challenges? How? Are there any challenges you believe cannot be overcome due to the conference being online?
As I said previously, communication is key when planning a virtual conference. Although it has been difficult at times, everyone is really great at finding unique ways to get in touch. Besides that, I think that we have been able to replicate the in-person conference experience to the best of our abilities. Originally, we planned to host the conference entirely over Zoom, which would limit many important aspects of MUN conferences such as unmods, crisis updates/backroom, and delegate-to-delegate interaction. We thought that we would not be able to include these elements until Gatherly approached us. Gatherly is an online conference program developed by students from UPenn Wharton School of Business. The platform’s features are specifically catered towards MUN conferences and include raise placard options, conference halls, and allow delegates to move throughout the conference venue and interact seamlessly. We are so thankful that Gatherly approached us and decided to sponsor the conference. Although we will be using Zoom for opening and closing ceremonies, all committee sessions will take place on Gatherly, thus giving delegates the ability to conduct unmods and to interact more easily. Check out our Instagram for more information on Gatherly and stay tuned for our Gatherly demo video that will be released soon!
5. Do you believe hosting an entirely online conference will bring any new aspects to the conference? Overall, what do you think hosting GLOMUN online will add to the conference?
I think that despite the challenges of hosting an online conference, it also has its benefits. One of the most significant positive aspects of the virtual conference is the diversity of both our staff members and delegates. The virtual nature of the conference has allowed us to connect with individuals on all inhabited continents. If GLOMUN was an in-person conference we definitely would not be able to reach people from all corners of the earth. Our staff alone has representation from six continents and over 15 countries. I think it’s especially cool that we can be in a zoom meeting from our homes in the U.S, Thailand, Egypt, Brazil and so many other places worldwide. I think the delegates will also benefit from their diversity and engage in really meaningful conversations with individuals from vastly different backgrounds.