Model UN is full of leaders with varying amounts of power and responsibility. Whether it’s the head delegate for a travel team, the leader of a high school MUN club, or the Secretary-General of an international conference, choosing the right person for the job can be crucial. That’s why MUN organizations have different processes for choosing their leaders, and why each system has its own supporters and opponents. In this article, we’ll compare two common systems:
The “Open” System
This format uses open, student government-like elections to decide who will be in charge of the group. Candidates will often be allowed to give brief speeches highlighting their qualifications for the job and any awards they’ve won in MUN that distinguish them from other delegates. After considering each candidate, members of the group will vote to decide who fills the leadership positions, with the intention of giving everyone a voice and rewarding new ideas.
The “Closed” System
Instead of an open election, this system uses a more selective process in which the leaders are chosen by a smaller, closed group. The group often consists of the current leadership who are picking their successors and/or faculty advisors. By carefully considering each candidate, this process is meant to pick the most qualified individual(s) for the position.
With benefits and drawbacks for both systems, we sent out a survey to see which ones MUN Institute Alumni and Best Delegate staff have used, and what they think is the most fair and effective way to fill MUN leadership positions. Here are the results.
“Which system does your current MUN team/club use?”
Half of the participants labeled the “closed” process as the one used by their current or most recent MUN organization, with open elections only appearing in 30% of the sampled cases. Additionally, some responses mentioned a combination of the two systems, with elections used for school clubs or travel teams and a closed process used for the secretariats of large conferences.
“Which system do you prefer and why?”
Here, participants could freely write about which system they think is best, with the majority advocating for a closed, selective process or some combination of both systems. Only 20 percent of participants preferred open elections, citing the advantages of allowing new ideas and having a leader with a majority of the group’s support, saying, “…a popular leader makes the club less likely to die out, since any major decisions will likely hold the consensus of the group.”
Proponents of a closed process citing the importance of choosing smart, qualified leaders over popular delegates with the most awards. According to one response, “having a closed selection process with club advisors and current leaders grants an opportunity for a more broad evaluation of the candidates as a whole. Not every MUN club member has the time and energy to evaluate their future leaders. Oftentimes the person with the most awards can easily be assumed as ‘the obvious choice’ to vote for, completely neglecting other essential qualities for a good leader: empathy, vision, and stress-management.”
One-quarter of respondents preferred a combination of both systems, where the current leadership makes the final decision on a short list of elected candidates. One answer even involved using both systems in different contexts, noting, “While MUN travel team/organization leadership works well with an open election system for positions like Head Delegate and President, Secretariats are much more complicated to plan. A closed selection process for conference Secretariats is preferable because it allows people’s strengths and weaknesses to be evaluated on a real level in regards to conference planning – it’s not just a popularity contest. ”
Here, participants were asked to consider five statements and rank them on a scale from “completely disagree” to “completely agree.” Here are the results of those questions:
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Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey!