Yale Model United Nations has surged back to being one of the best conferences in the country. They did it by embracing old practices and infusing new technology.
The Yale Model UN conference (YMUN) hosted its first session forty-six years ago, but its legacy has not kept it from experimenting with new advances. Six years ago, YMUN radically altered its conference by developing their own procedure, nixing delegation awards, and attempting to change their traditionally competitive conference into a more academic setting.
Akshara Dhadda was in high school at the time and attended this version of YMUN. Three years later, Akshara finds herself entering her third year at Yale this fall and the newly selected Secretary-General of YMUN. She reflects on the dramatic changes as a testament to YMUN’s fluidity and impressive ability to respond to feedback: “some changes went really well, and others were met with lots of opposition. That information is valuable in helping us improve.”
Experimentation indicates a degree of personal accountability that is not mirrored by many other college secretariats. Akshara reminisces on her early days as the Director-General of Committees at YMUN in 2019, “What we decided as a secretariat was that we weren’t doing enough.” Significant time early on in the conference planning process was dedicated solely to brainstorming new outside the box ideas to address the shortcomings of the past year and preemptively anticipate new issues with innovative solutions.
The constant self-evaluation and integration of feedback make YMUN more innovative than other conferences. A major differentiator has been YMUN’s use of technology. What started as an experiment in live streaming has been adopted into a full-scale adoption of technology throughout the conference.
In 2019, YMUN utilized technology as a means to bolster the success of the conference by making the YMUN experience a year-long affair. As Director-General of Committees for YMUN in 2019 and Secretary-General for YMUN in 2020 Akshara agrees that technology, particularly the use of live streaming, was an integral aspect of YMUN’s popularity, especially among parents. “Parents get to see their kids play sports, perform in musicals, in choir concerts, etc. The same isn’t typically true for students involved in Model UN”. The YMUN Facebook page did not passively film committee sessions, but actively dispensed critical information to delegates, advisors, and parents alike, such as schedules, maps, and conference updates. The opening and closing ceremonies were live-streamed, which provided parents and advisors with the opportunity to watch their students walk up on stage and claim awards as well as listen to the closing remarks given by secretariat members. The YMUN website included a page dedicated to live-streaming committees, which consisted of a schedule for which committees were to be streamed and at what times and days, giving parents at home a reliable means of ensuring they could watch their students in action, delivering speeches and whipping votes.
“Social media is really helpful given our target audience,” reflects Akshara. Beyond live streaming, the YMUN Instagram page posted countdowns in the weeks leading up to the conference weekend, building anticipation and boosting the general excitement for delegates attending. Dhadda notes that the secretariat for YMUN 2019 learned to be extremely adaptive to social media trends: “a lot of our target audience is now on Instagram instead of Facebook, so we had to make sure we covered all our bases.” On Instagram, YMUN not only posted updates about winners of their Essay Competition but even interacted with individual delegates by providing insight on the preparation process and aiding in registration issues.
The incorporation of social media is indicative of a fundamental difference in secretariat structure that sets YMUN apart. Every member of the secretariat contributes to YMUN’s online presence. Technology is integrated into the registration process, the assignment process, crisis updates, community outreach and engagement, delegate training, and expanding YMUN’s capabilities.
The recent changes all serve to support YMUN’s fundamental mission as a conference: education. This thematic idea was brought forth in fresh ways throughout YMUN 2019, with an Essay Contest, a Social Impact Challenge, and NGO Program. Akshara concludes with her personal mission as the brand new Secretary-General to make YMUN into a yearlong educational experience: “If we want to make a lasting social impact, we needed to go beyond the four days of committee and think bigger in order to carry our mission forward.”
Akshara Dhadda has been at the reigns as Secretary-General for only two weeks, and she has lofty expectations for forty-sixth session of Yale Model United Nations. As she pushes the conference forward, she fully anticipates relying on new experiments and initiatives to differentiate YMUN, provide an elevated delegate experience, and redefine what success means.
We recorded our interview with Secretay-General of YMUN Akshara Dhadda and have posted it as a special episode on the MUN Coach podcast. Tune into MUN Coach on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.