A big number of MUNs around the world follow the simple form of delegates applying, being informed of their respective case, delegation and council/committee, and then the actual conference. This is mostly suitable for delegates with experience prior to the application, whether through previous MUN conferences or through related studies in their respective majors, but what if the delegate applying is neither experienced nor in any way familiar with anything related to the MUN universe? How can we – MUN leaders – offer them an equal chance of learning about what is going on in the world, and giving them the means to know how to tackle, discuss and even potentially solve issues at hand?
MUNs which have bigger numbers of unexperienced delegates face the problem of having very shaky and immature conferences, and they had to adapt, by starting to take matters more into their own hands, and personally preparing the delegates to make sure they can positively participate in an MUN conference.
This preparation phase take multiple shapes and forms, but in this article, I shall be chiefly focusing on the proper use of an MUN session, as a main tool to achieve the wanted results. Before delving into the details, we need to ask ourselves the question “What is an MUN session?”
There are numerous, different yet interconnected types of sessions that could be held, to prepare your delegates for the conference, but in what sense?
To answer that, let us first dissect the process to ease up the analysis. To simplify things, Let us divide the task of “delegates preparation” into two main pillars, which are considered the two main problems or challenges to be faced; Academic, and Personal.
If for example you have a delegate with little to no knowledge of the role of the UN, or unfamiliar with the concept of foreign policies, or even rules of procedures, as well as having a lack of knowledge of the basic terminologies used in a conference, they are obviously not ready to be handed a delegation and thrown into a conference.
Likewise, a delegate who cannot formulate a proper speech, cannot execute a convenient research, or cannot debate/lobby, needs to first be equipped with such skills, before engaging into a conference.
To start carrying out these tasks, two concepts must be applied to bolster the fulfillment of the two main pillars mentioned above, the first is the Academic approach and the second is the Dynamic approach.
The sessions, as aforementioned, are considered “Tools” used to further enhance the quality of the conference, through fulfilling the tasks of academic and personal development of the delegates. To back this up, let us start with the Academic approach, suppose you are modelling the General Assembly’s third committee, your approach will have a high chance of informing your delegates about human rights and social related concepts such as Refugees and Migrants, Child Labor, Free Speech, Religious Freedom etc. Likewise, if you are modelling Security Council, the topics involved would be along the lines of State Sovereignty, international security, terrorism, peace keeping etc.
Some Models – like GUCMUN – tend to publish a yearly academic paper and give it to the delegates prior to the conference, the academic paper includes a created theme encompassing the topics chosen, and detailed insight on the content of these topics, which are later explained in the sessions, so that the delegates can go back to the academic paper and recheck what was presented during the sessions anytime.
A secret to a successful academic approach, no matter what the topics you choose to focus on are, it is always best when the published theme is in a form of a hypothesis, in a way which guarantees an ongoing encouragement for the delegates to look more to try and prove/disprove the proposed theme, hence enriching their academic acquaintance.
Moving on to the Dynamic approach, informing the delegates is one thing, and having them make use of the things they were informed with is a whole different story. An MUN session is not a lecture, it could be, but going the extra mile of testing the understanding of the delegates grants an overall better result, and eventually an overall better conference. This could be done through the application of various Workshops during the session.
Workshops are activities held throughout the sessions tackling specific aspects, based on the type of the workshop, but let us consider workshops mainly focusing on teamwork/team building, public speaking, debating, researching, reading and writing. These are the five main skills a delegate should have. These workshops are mainly relating to the academic content explained, but more or less considered a fun, more practical application to the concepts explained earlier (or later).
A secret to making a workshop a prosperous one, is to make sure it is relatable to everyone attending. The extent of how far to go to try and deliver the information is fully up to the leaders of the respective MUNs, some MUN directors have went through to the extent of creating, or choosing an already existing non-political, fictional universe, which conveys the same ideas, to try and simplify the concepts explained. For example: How easily the Game of Thrones Houses could be applied to further explain the concept of state sovereignty, or how we can definitely see Captain Jack Sparrow explaining the maritime laws, and who wouldn’t want to see a rap showdown between Churchill and Stalin to recap the events of the second world war..?
But different models would adopt different ways of delivering, based on their values, rules, visions and even the level of the delegates enrolled.
It is advisable, if you are an MUN leader in charge of the sessions, to have a bulk sessions plan, prepared ahead of the sessions, in other words, a rough copy, or an outline for the program or syllabus presented to the delegates before the conference.
It is always a good idea to create a tracking system, literally tracking the response of the delegates to keep a dynamic, adapting improvement of the sessions as they progress. This system can include attendance, delegate feedback, testing of their understanding through mini tasks and so on.
The number of sessions given is set based on the amount of content needed to be delivered, from academic topics to defining the rules of procedures (UN4MUN or North American style or any other form followed by your model), to the testing of soft skills acquired, up until reaching a certain level in which the delegates can be ready to be handed a delegation in their respective committee/council.
To sum this up, to run better MUN sessions you need to first be acquainted with the academic topics you will be delivering throughout the sessions, then choose which topics will be explained in which sessions, each session should include time for the explanation of the academic topics as well as time for their applications, in form of workshops, which at the same time test their personal skills, all of this should be tracked to calibrate any measurement and come up with more positive results the following session, and the process goes on. Be as creative as you can in delivering your content, an MUN session is not a lecture, it is a platform, or a stage for interactions between delegates and directors, and delegates and each other, with the sole purpose of striving towards a prosperous conference, through improving the overall intellectuality and awareness of the delegates.