The UN Youth Strategy 2030 Launch
Model UN is an overwhelmingly positive activity. It enables you to gain extremely valuable skills from public speaking and diplomacy to team building and negotiation. However, MUN is too often an activity for the privileged. International schools typically dominate conference in Europe, while students who are in a financially sustainable position are the ones that can afford to go to most conferences.
However, how can we as organisers encourage those who are not typically able to go to conferences, to participate and learn from the incredible opportunities that MUN provides?
Encouraging youth and NGO participation
This first section will cover school delegates and ways to encourage participation. Schools are naturally the first call for finding delegates. While in the US universities do organise conferences, in Europe this is not typically the norm as more emphasis is placed on organising university conferences. Many of these conferences do allow for school delegates to apply, however, there isn’t usually an active effort made to encourage schools to apply.
Indeed, organising an entirely school based conference does not necessarily come to the mind of university societies which place more focus on attending and organising university conferences. While some efforts have emerged over the last few years, they are not necessarily well established in comparison to the large conferences that are organised by schools with the funding and organisational capabilities. In the UK at least, many of these schools are private with limited spaces available for state schools.
So, how can we as organisers encourage state schools and generally those less privileged to apply to conferences?
The first step is to actually reach out to local schools and provide a cost effective solution for schools while providing value for their students by effectively selling MUN. This can be supplemented by organising MUN lessons and sessions at local schools to encourage teachers to send their students to a conference at a minimal cost.
The second way is to engage local NGOs that aim to provide local youths alternative learning methods and once again provide a cost effective delegate pack for students. This will require research from your part to determine what are the best organisations to engage. Universities are often times a valuable source for information regarding these organisations. Engage your admissions department and students in your university society that are locals to contact their schools to send a delegation.
While the above statements can seem fairly obvious to a certain degree, the success of this will depend on how you sell yourself to schools. However, the success of this depends entirely on how you budget your conference. Do not expect schools and students to flock to your conference if delegate packs are prohibitively expensive. This is indeed especially important if schools and students have to travel far to attend your conference.
The second way which I have seen societies engage with schools is through the provision of scholarships. These are usually means tested and generally do have some success in bringing in students. However, the success of this will depend on the quantity of scholarships you have and as above, whether you are able to engage local schools and NGOs. At one conference I organised, we provided scholarships to the award winners of the conference to a university conference.
However, due to the presence of some schools that had established MUN societies, many of the scholarship winners went to one school rather than a wide variety of schools.
Therefore, it’s important to do proper due diligence in order to ensure that the application itself does not limit students from certain grounds from applying.
As a person that attended an international school, I have been able to benefit enormously from the learning experience that my school provided. Indeed, without having attended that school, I wouldn’t be writing these words. Ultimately while we debate about sustainable development and protecting those more vulnerable than us, how can we as MUNers actually have an impact?
I would argue that organising school conferences is one of the best ways to encourage sustainable development by giving opportunities to younger students who can then continue to promote the values of the UN.