Welcome to the first installment in the “Building a Winning Program” series! This post will cover common bad practices and misconceptions about assigning committees to Model UN members for competitive Model UN conferences. If you are planning to bring a competitive team to a Major or Mid-Major conference, it would behoove you to follow this advice to ensure you have constructed the best team possible. This post starts with the basics of assigning people to their committees.
Ignoring GAs and ECOSOCs
I get it. You don’t have to be in a General Assembly. You’ve put in your grunt time and now all of the upperclassmen feel they somehow are too good to be wasted in a GA or ECOSOC.
I’ve got news for you: Winning teams take home gavels from GAs and ECOSOCs. Winning teams almost always run through the GAs and ECOSOCs like a buzzsaw.
Your team needs to start taking GAs and ECOSOCs seriously. They may not be the most exciting committees, but the General Assembly is the backbone of the United Nations System. What’s more, ignoring GA and ECOSOC means ignoring half of the conference. If you’re going to concede half of the gavels at a conference, you’ll never have a shot at winning a delegation award.
All gavels are created equally.
Pairing Newbies and Vets in General Assemblies
So you’ve taken our advice and decided not to forfeit the GA and ECOSOC committees by stuffing them full of first-timers. Instead, you’ve decided that GAs make a great training exercise for new members.
Do you hear me sighing? You should.
One of the worst practices schools have is pairing senior members with freshmen in General Assembly committees. While there are exceptions and some freshmen turn out to be all-stars, the vast majority of schools do this to allow new members to become familiar with how a Model UN conference operates.
This strategy doesn’t work for two main reasons. First, all of the members of your team should know how a Model UN conference operates before arriving at the conference. This is what training should be designed for. True, you most likely cannot stage a 300 person training session but you can review procedure, debate flow, and committee strategies. Don’t waste a conference on training for a future conference.
The second reason this strategy is poor in nature brings us back to the first assignment faux pas: don’t concede GA awards. Winning programs pair two all-stars to fight for every GA and ECOSOC gavel.
Pandering to Senior Members
This is the worst offense when it comes to assignment committees. If you’re giving all of the crisis and specialized assignments to senior members just because they’re seniors, you’re harming your program.
Again, there are multiple reasons why this is a harmful strategy. To begin with, if crisis and specialized assignments always go to senior members, how will new members ever learn to win in advanced committees? The majority of senior members should be in large committees. Advanced committees may be more challenging in some aspects, but it is easier to win an award. Mathematically, there is a better percentage to place for an award. Additionally, procedure and formality does not constrain debate as much as larger committees.
The second reason you shouldn’t pander to senior members is that it weakens the drive of those members. Every committee, every assignment should be up for grabs. And yes, you should be holding try outs before doling out committee assignments.
Finally, MUN veterans tends to think themselves experts in certain fields. “I always do nuclear energy committee.” “I’m the club’s Japan expert.” As soon as you hear these reasons, make sure you don’t assign that committee to that particular member. Expertise can be a powerful tool but it can also be an inhibitor. Resident experts tend to view history with a particular slant and if the committee diverts from that path, disaster follows.
So there you have it: Three ways that you and your Model UN team are messing up committee assignments and how that’s affecting your competitive performance. Follow this advice the next time you do assignments and see your team’s winning percentage skyrocket.