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Conference Ranking Methodoloy

Academics (50%)

– Background Guides (10%)

Regardless of the conference category, background guides play a critical part of the academic aspect of a Model United Nations conference. Properly researched and written study materials impact debate and committee experience more than they are given credit for. Consistency across guides should be a prerogative for any responsible secretariat but that does not mean a secretariat should be writing background guides. Chairs and Directors must write their own guides to ensure they have a broad and deep understanding of the committee topics.

For conferences that have been operating for a number of years, recycling previous material makes sense. There is no reason to start from scratch when developing guides for topics such as Human Trafficking, Small Weapons and Light Arms, or even Nuclear Non-Proliferation. However, guides should be new and updated for each conference session. A properly written and cited background guide should be 10-20 pages per topic with double spaced lines and should include section such as: Topic History, Recent Development, Bloc Positions, Questions to Consider, and a proper Bibliography (bonus points for an annotated Bibliography).

– Staffing (10%)

A conference is only as good as its staff. A well trained and prepared staff can more drastically influence a conference than any other aspect.  Though it is threadbare to analyze a staff by looking into statistics, this approach is one of the only ways for us to measure staffing across 100 conferences. Ideally, we would love to attend every conference and interact with staff, but it’s simply not feasible.

  • Secretariat to Staff Ratio: A secretariat should be no more than 10% of any conference staff.  While conferences are free to choose how to allocate their human assets, it seems wasteful to have 15 secretariat members managing a staff of 50. Whatsmore, large secretariats often drain the best staffers from substantive positions to operational.
  • Student to Staff Ratio: An ideal delegate to staff ratio should land between 10:1-15:1. Any less and you risk overwhelming students, underutilizing and boring staff, or more likely, both. Any more and it becomes incredibly difficult to properly monitor committees. While two senior staff members can easily moderated a General Assembly of 175, they cannot properly monitor discussions during unmoderated caucuses and provide the right input for draft resolutions.
  • Percentage of Returning Staff:  Conferences should pay particular attention to this number. Ideally, a conference staff will have at least 60% of its staff returning for the following session. Even if a quarter of a staff graduates each year (a very high percentage of 4th year students is generally atypical), a conference should still muster retaining a high percentage of available staffers.

– Committees (10%)

Committees varied wildly across the range of conferences that we reviewed.  We paid attention to a few numbers and tried to analyze the best fit between them. For example, if a conference has a 50 person staff, 500 delegates in attendance, but only runs 3 committees, perhaps they should expand their committee offering. Here are some of the committee areas we analyzed:

  • UN vs. Non-UN Simulations
  • Types of Committees
  • Number of Committees and Average Number of Delegates per Committee
  • Committee Size Range

– Delegate Experience (15%)

Delegate Experience is the most heavily weighted category in the Review. To measure experience, we looked at several aspects that we believe go into making an outstanding committee experience. We also forced ourselves to make tough decisions on which policies positively influence committee and delegate experience. Below are some of the hard stances we chose to take a stand on:

Double Delegates: For the most part, we view double delegates as unnecessary, at best, and profit-mongering, at worst. While there are some committees that are enhanced by double delegates, the UNSC or IAEA for example, we looked as double delegates in GAs and ECOSOCs as a liability to delegate experience.

Position Papers: By categorizing delegate experience under the Academic purview, we examined conference policies regarding position papers here. Position papers play an important part in high school Model UN. As such, we looked for conferences that mandated position papers be written and, more importantly, for conferences to review and return pre-conference work before the first committee session.

Staff Allocation: When conferences misdistribute staff, committee experience suffers. While it’s tempting to allocate more staff members to crisis committees, this can punish delegates in larger committees.

Laptop/Computer Policy: Our views on computers have already been espoused: conferences should not allow laptops or computers.

– Creativity (5%)

Creativity does not mean Fantasy. We’ve taken a hard stance against fantasy committees and were not looking to contradict our position. Instead, we examined which UN and IGO simulations that conferences chose to run, in addition to topics in committees.

Transparency (20%)

With Model UN becoming a premiere debate competition and considering the amount money that exchanges hands to participate in Model UN conferences, transparency is a topic not often discussed enough. We decided to place a special emphasis on conference transparency.

– Awards (5%)

Awards transparency is crucial for competitive conferences. And for the most part, major and mid-major conferences do an excellent job of posting defined awards policies and their past award recipients. Unfortunately, there are a number of conference who actively refuse to publish awards lists. If high school Model UN teams continue to be ranked, awards transparency is critical. In addition, publishing awards lists keep conferences honest when awarding delegation and team awards.

– Participation (5%)

The only way to improve is to engage your stakeholders in the feedback loop. We looked for conferences to hold feedback sessions and more importantly, favored conferences that allow schools to have students act as head delegates.

– Financial Ethics (10%)

Once we have finished compiling our data, we will be releasing a special report on the economics of Model UN. MUN has blossomed into a money machine for a number of conferences and in some minor, but still unfortunate, occasions profit has overruled conference experience. We considered conference prices, financial assistance programs, sponsorship programs, and whether conferences publish financial reports in our financial ethics evaluation.

Conference Experience (20%)

In addition to the academic delegate experience, we considered other aspects that enhance the overall conference experience.

– Events and Social Activities (5%)

Please note that we awarded points for events and social activities not as degrees of entertainment but based on whether conferences offered events or social activities. Typically, every conference was awarded 1 point and earned additional points if they held dances(+2) or other social activities. Conferences that earned 4 or 5 points hosted or organized events that went beyond what other conferences offer.

– Competitiveness (10%)

We believe that Model UN is a competitive debate event and as such, argue that the more competitive the conference, the better the conference experience overall. We looked at the awards distribution among participating schools and the percentage of ranked schools that attended the conference.

– External Relationships (5%)

Overall, conference do a poor job taking advantage of external partners. We wanted to reward conferences that bring in expert speakers and excellent keynote presenters.

Operations and Logistics (10%)

Admittedly, this was the most difficult part of the Review to judge. Without visiting every conference, it’s almost impossible to correct assign a weight to operations. For that reason, we awarded all conferences 8/10 points and adjusted the number if we had personal knowledge of or insight into a conference’s logistics program.