MUN Block Dynamics – Creation, Upkeep and Strategy

MUN is a strategic process with a singular purpose. All of the delegates who attend have the same goal – to pass resolutions that solve problems. It is true that individual awards can be won, but if a block cannot come together to produce some form of working paper the whole MUN can feel disappointing. Model UN is a social game. Good ideas cannot become good resolutions unless a strong coalition votes the draft into a reality. Resolutions pass because blocs and alliances get a majority of delegates to vote them through. This guide will analyze MUN committee and block dynamics and explain how to manage each of these elements effectively all the way to the final vote.

Introduction

Building a coalition, or block, at a Model UN conference is important, but it can be tough. The building process starts as soon as the conference begins and continues until the final vote is taken. Keeping a block together takes serious diplomatic skills. This article will give you an idea of how to create and maintain blocks, as well as how to handle any issues that may come up during a conference.

First Steps

– Get oriented – As soon as the Chair brings the gavel down to start your first committee session, you need to be on the lookout for potential partners. As the opening speeches begin, keep your ears open for delegates that sound competent and whose ideas complement your own.

– Start sending notes – As we discuss in our article devoted to note passing, this is a valuable tool. Why? Because during a moderated committee session you can’t just get up and discuss ideas with other delegates. You have to be quiet and respectful to the delegates who are speaking. As soon as you find a delegate you want to speak to or compare ideas with, start the note process. At the start, it can be something as simple as requesting a meeting during the first unmoderated caucus.

– Speak to your neighbors. You will want to get to know the delegates around you, whether you plan to work with them or not.

– Arrange and organize the first unmoderated caucus. The first unmod will seem chaotic, but it is where initial and potentially conference-lasting relationships are formed. Don’t get left out.

– Don’t be afraid to let go. If you realize a country or delegate won’t work with what you are trying to accomplish, don’t waste all of your time on them. Find new partners.

Interblock Relations – The Three Rings Approach

We’ve created the Three Ring Model to make the block analysis and structure clearer.

First/Inner Ring

  • This is the center of the block. It contains the delegates who are most involved: the writers, the negotiators, and highly competent idea creators. What are you looking for with inner ring members?
    • Oration – Strong speakers that can reach many at once. They are usually also good negotiators with an affinity for speaking with and working in groups.
    • Coalition Building and Maintaining – During unmoderated caucuses, inner ring members need to be good at persuading other delegations and maintaining the ones already voting with you.
    • Resolution Writing – Inner ring members are active writers and can create original clauses, clean up the writing, and integrate ideas from other delegations into the clauses.

Second Ring

  • Members of the second ring will be strong supporters who are invested in the particular clauses written in the resolution. They may be sponsors or signatories, and will be good at getting other signatories on board.

Third Ring

  • This ring is filled with less loyal supporters who lean towards voting in favor of your resolution. This could also be filled with newer delegates who don’t have the experience to put them in your inner rings, or it could be delegates who don’t care. Guess what? Their vote counts the same as yours. Be aware that members of your Third Ring can be poached off by other blocks.

The Undecideds

  • These delegates are not in any of your rings, but they always have the potential to join. They are similar to the delegates in the third ring, but have either not been approached or have not committed to any block yet. You can also consider members of other block’s third rings as undecideds. Just as your third ring members can be stolen away, you can steal theirs away.

If all of this seems like a strategy game, like Risk or chess, then you’re thinking along the right lines. It is a long game plan for each resolution you are trying to pass. The Second Ring delegates can be used to recruit and maintain the Third Ring. At the same time, they can try to get other block’s Third Ring members. Your First Ring members will be the closers of any deal the Second Ring begins with other block members.

Meanwhile, be sure that each member of the First Ring knows their role. Chances are, the First Ring delegates are going to be the star delegates, possibly all vying for the Best Delegate Award. Figure out early in the resolution process what the strength of every delegate is.

Can delegates change from ring to ring? Sure. This can be a strategic move. If you are worried that one of your Third Ring delegates is going to be poached off by another block, promote that delegate to the Second Ring.

During Unmoderated Caucus

You, or someone you trust, need to keep a bird’s eye view of the whole room during unmoderated caucuses. When you take a step back and look at the room, you will see order rise out of the chaos. There will be multiple blocks, all with their own form of the rings mentioned above. If you get even closer, and really pay attention, you will see delegates move in and out of other block’s rings. Sometimes delegations will change rings and move into the land of undecided. Have someone ready to approach these members.

On occasion, a First Ringer will move. If this happens they will likely take some other delegates with them. The split could be for an important reason. The US would leave any delegation that decided to condemn the death penalty because they have the death penalty. If a powerhouse moves, a block could fall apart. Be ready to offer something to the delegations that are left behind.

Do not underestimate your Third Ring. They will make up the largest part of your block. Keeping them nearby and loyal is important, so you should task-specific Second Ring members with the job of ensuring Third Ring delegates are satisfied. If you sense a shift, give them something. Maybe they want their name on the resolution. Naming them as a sponsor ensures their support, as sponsors are required to vote in favor. If you have to, promote them. The more important a delegate feels, the harder it will be for their loyalties to shift.

Block upkeep

Quick and simple tips for maintaining your block.

  • Don’t ignore anyone
    • First Ring members should communicate with Second Ringers regularly. They are your foot soldiers. Since your duties as a First Ringer will keep your busy, you have to keep Second Ringers close so they can maintain communication with the Third Ring.
    • If a Third Ring wants to talk, take the time and talk to them. If you brush them off, you might as well be sending them to another block.
  • Make everyone part of the process
    • When you assume that the clauses you write will be accepted by everyone, you are making a potentially dangerous error. First Ring members can get so caught up in their circle that they forget they need everyone else.
    • Even if you know the clauses you write will be accepted by others, send a Second Ringer to each Third Ring delegate to update them and ask for input. This is a simple way to keep your allies.
  • Amend and lock allies with clauses
    • If you want to ensure support from certain delegates you are worried about losing, lock them in by including them in a resolution.
    • Consider making them a signatory or sponsor.
      • Sponsors MUST vote in favor of the resolution
      • Signatories are likely to vote in favor, even though they don’t have to
    • Put direct references to Second and Third Ringers into the resolution clauses.
  • If they look bored, you can lose them
    • If you see that anyone in your block looks bored, rest assured that other blocks see it as well. Don’t let them get poached. Get them involved.
  • Don’t be afraid to let go
    • If you have a Second Ring delegate who is continually trying to get into the First Ring, but they don’t have anything valuable to contribute, you may have to let them go. This type of Second Ringer will want too much without giving any.

Keeping your block from one topic to the next

If you and your block were successful and passed a resolution on the first topic of the conference, you will probably want to maintain the team you have. It will give you the immediate upper hand for the next topic. If you spent time keeping a good relationship with all three of your block’s rings, then upkeep should be easy. Be aware of the following things. Some delegates will leave because a topic may affect their country directly and they may not be able to be involved due to country policies. That is okay because it’s part of the simulation.

Blocks that were not successful on the first topic may fall apart. If you were part of the successful block, watch out because they are going to try to attach themselves to your block. Figure out which delegates you can strategically use and which ones you can’t.

  • As soon as you know your block will pass a resolution, start working on other blocks’ delegates. Be ready ahead of time to bring them on board. This will make up for any losses you incur.
  • Reward your loyal ring 2 and 3 members. If they did well, think about moving them up a ring for the next topic.

If your block was on the losing end of the resolution, don’t despair. It happens. Keep calm and strategize as if the conference is starting again. Seek out a new block and get going.

Conclusion

Model UN is not a solo game and the topics being debated and voted on are important global issues. To have a successful conference, good resolutions need to be passed. From the moment you arrive at the conference, you need to start building your team. The upkeep of a block is not easy, but it is necessary. With a little effort and smart maneuvering, you can create and maintain a block all the way through a vote and with some skill, you can keep that block alive the entire conference.