Should We Pay For MUN Software?
MUN software has become a central part of almost every Model UN conference. The late 2010’s have become a time of unprecedented Model UN innovation. However, it seems to come with a price. Is this the future of Model UN?
As of March 2018, poplar chairing software ChairMUN has introduced pricing for MUN Software As A Service (SAAS). ChairMUN has become a favorite of the Model UN community. and has been especially popular because all it requires a web browser and a connection to the internet to run.
*This made it useful on university computers which didn’t allow Model UN chairs to install programs like WxMUN onto the computer.
ChairMUN has not changed much since pricing has been introduced. A new chair registered their committee, conference and country in the same way. They have the same login process and reach the same country selection page. However, now when they log in they seem something new.
If you have less than 50 delegates in your room you can proceed but if you have more, and want to use ChairMUN, you need to go pro.
ChairMUN still allows the conference staff to input names of non-country delegates (as can be seen below) but the function to modify the image seen on the screen when a delegation speaks requires the user to upgrade to the full suite.
This begs the question, is it worth it? Is the new ability to add custom images or the fan-favorite statistics feature which measures how often a delegate speaks worth $5 per month per committee? We are not saying that this is the perfect pricing, or that ChairMUN must remain free, but one still needs to ask, if something truly enhances our Model UN experience does it have the right to charge and should we pay for it?
ChairMUN is, by far, not the only example of a Model UN support tool which charges for its use. DEUS Crisis Software, which came on the scene in 2016 and took the United Kingdom crisis community by storm, was never free. The creators of DEUS have said that, while Model UN is a labor of love, creating and maintaining complex and tailored software takes time and effort. There are also server and hosting charges which are rarely taken into account. Is pricing a consideration to the conferences who use it? This does not seem to be the case if you read the DEUS testimonials page but it is likely that price was a factor for some conferences that prefer to use google forms or Asana to run their crisis committees. At the same time, google forms and Asana cannot do what you see below and would take hours of custom programming to try and come close.
(If you have no idea what you are looking at in this image you should learn more about MUN crisis. A first step can be reading out article Introduction to MUN Crisis.)
Chairing software is not the only part of the Model UN world that charges. Another example is conference management software, such as MyMUN.com, which first charged conferences, and then delegates, to use the platform in return gives conference organizers a fairly user-friendly interface to process payment and manage allocations. Along with this feature, MyMUN also runs an updated calendar of Model UN conferences, which lists conferences hosted, and not hosted, on the platform. It is true that Model UN conferences also google tools or generic event management software, such as Eventbrite, but one cannot argue that custom software for the Model UN community has features that Eventbrite would not take the time to develop.
The World of the Free Model
In contrast to the new world of paid software, most Model UN conference enhancing software has been around as far back as living Model UN memory (which usually doesn’t pass a decade). While the last update was half a decade ago WxMUN remains one of the top platforms, showing not only a dedicated fanbase but also a strong need in the Model UN community.
WxMUN is open source. It also does not seem to need upkeep or constant support. However, a user base or need does not ensure survival. DUEMUN was a chairing software developed by the DEUMUN conference and is no longer supported, the source code is no longer available and no one picked up the pieces even though it was an open-source project. DEUMUN is not the only one delegates will probably never see again, but others exist who play that same essential role. Also, more than their fair share of delegates have felt the same frustration when they find themselves at a conference with chairs who run the committee on Microsoft word using the stopwatch on their phone. (To see our take on the best, and worst, MUN Software check out our 2019 MUN Software review!)
Seeing the familiar image of WxMUN on the screen brings a sense of order calm and for many delegates. This feeling of familiarity does not only bring comfort at using what is known but also a security that the session will run well.
We at WiseMee even used WxMUN in our hit MUN parody Model UN Style (and in One Vote More) as it was clear to our team that some sort of MUN software with a flag needed to be in the video for it to feel truly Model UN.
Model UN style is another example of a free to access entity which has a cost to make. Once they were written, the recording of the vocals in a professional studio costs money. While the cast, directors and editors volunteered, and the lighting equipment and cameras were taken from the communication school warehouse, music videos like these can easily reach thousands of dollars in production costs. While we loved making the video, one should appreciate that parody videos like these, or Model UN education videos took time to make. Whether it’s the student photographer who takes pictures and edits them, the YouTuber or the open-source software programmer, someone is taking the time to make our lives easier and, if it does its job, does it have to be free?
The Paid and Free Paradox of the Model UNer
Model UN is a complex dance for allegedly poor students. MUN involves inherent expensive elements, such as flights and accommodation, but also provides places to cut costs, such as what a delegate eats for lunch or if they pay for a social pack. This dissonance exists in a world where tens of thousands of dollars can be spent renting committee rooms at hotels, universities or even the United Nations while the event is managed by a dedicated, and sometimes very professional staff who put in hundreds of hours and don’t take a dime for their efforts.
One can argue that the benefits to students in conference and event management are worth the unpaid hours of labor, but even that is not correct as many universities run for profit conferences for regional high schools to fund their travel teams. This ability to spend a lot of money, while pinching every penny, will always be a part of the true Model UN spirit. This does not mean that we cannot learn to give a little more than we already do to significantly enhance the conference experience. It is possible that one day paying for chairing software can become a recognized expense along with a photographer, badges and certificates.
A guiding question that can be used to help decide where we stand is does this paid content make the game better? It is clear that Model UN training camps, such as those offered by Best Delegate, have introduced and improved Model UN for many. We know that our content at WiseMee has made a difference to significant numbers to create the resources that we made available to the global Model UN committee have a better Model UN experience.
Just as we spent countless house of human work to put this website together for you, we have hundreds of innovators in our extended Model UN family who want to make the experience better and give back to the game, and community that shaped, and changed, their early lives.
WxMUN is a free creation, built for the community, and is used by the community, but receives little to no contributions. Model UN, however, is not free. We have to pay for flights and trains and we have to pay conference fees. As we have some high fixed costs, why should Model UN software be where we get stingy for the dollar? A lot of free work goes on behind the scenes as every member of a secretariat knows. Some Model UN conferences are highly subsidized. Some societies, or universities, cover flights and sometimes even social packs. For others, it is a cost they bear alone.
In this shifting landscape, the one constant in life is: change. These past years, that we can count in single digits on one hand, have been unprecedented in professionalism and innovation in software development, education and conference management. We at WiseMee predict that this trend will continue and in the coming decade, we will see a lot of change in the Model UN community. There will be new free tools. There will be new paid tools. There will likely be many freemium solutions. What is certain is that the main beneficiary, whether they pay or do not, will be the Model UNer. Whether delegate, secretariat or teacher, everything from delegate training to conference management will improve in quality as it becomes smoother and easier to use and understand. It is true that it may cost a bit more but the benefit will be a much better Model UN experience than we could ever have imagined.
Check out our core How To Model UN articles