By Jonas Bruns
Almost two years into the global pandemic, there is no shortage of tragic stories. Today, I want to share the story of how friends and I built our ultimate MUN dream and how this would have never probably happened without Covid.*
One year before the pandemic began.
In Spring 2019, I was invited to chair a large Model United Nations Conference in New York City. I had chaired before, been to numerous conferences as a delegate, and helped organize my home turf conference in Germany. This was to become the largest committee I would have chaired until then (until now, actually). A few weeks before the conference began, I received a spreadsheet with about 80 names and countries, which I thought was sizeable yet manageable. To prepare for the conference, I read the position papers and looked for the best software to manage my committee: wxMUN was my go-to until I was amazed by MUN Coordinated. It allowed delegates to add themselves to the General Speakers List. How awesome is that?
Then the conference began. I was a little overwhelmed by the large room and the sheer number of people. It didn’t feel like 80 or so people 🤔
As it turned out, It wasn’t. After the first roll-call, I asked if I missed anyone. Almost the entire room raised their placards: We were a nearly complete General Assembly, double delegate, High school committee. Almost 400 people. Then I allowed delegates to add themselves to the General Speakers List. It was borderline impossible to see placards after the third or fourth row. How would I ever see the delegates of Viet Nam or Zimbabwe?
I just checked again not to exaggerate the number: Our General Speakers List was more than 2500 speakers long within minutes. The problem was that countries could be added to a speaker list more than once and by anybody, as everyone was using the same public link. There was also no way to delete all speakers at once, so the tool became unusable within minutes. Maybe it was also me who was not the best at using it. They also made many valuable updates to the software. (I don’t want to hit on them cause I love everyone contributing to the MUN community, but I didn’t manage at that moment). After the first session, I set up my good-old wxMUN.
The delegates later told me they had a wonderful time at the conference. I, however, felt sad that delegates who spent considerable money on flights, suits, and hotels waited forever for votes to be counted, documents to be shared, and roll calls to finish. Better chairpeople would have probably reduced the wait to a minimum.
I was starting to imagine a software where every delegate could log in individually and do all these things that we lost time with: Vote, share documents, chat, and do roll calls.
How hard can it be?
Half a year before the pandemic began.
Soon after the conference, I tried to talk to IT-savvy friends about building such software. Without success. My attempts at creating it myself were also short-lived.
In December 2019, however, I met a friend for coffee who told me he was looking for a small coding project to develop his coding skills further. Two other friends from my MUN Club agreed to join the team. We met in January to make sketches, but we didn’t develop any momentum with everyone being too busy. Soon the project was dead before it had even started.
Then Covid happened. There wasn’t much to do during the early lockdowns in Spring 2020, so why not dig out this MUN software thing again? Our first goal was to build better wxMUN-type software. Yes, this was not the login based thing I had imagined, but if we weren’t even able to make this, we wouldn’t even need to go for the big project. After endless hours of video calls and the sometimes painful, sometimes rewarding process of learning how to code, the result is the MUN Command Session App. Thousands of chairs have been using it for running their debates until now, and some have started to call it a standard MUN tool.
After we launched the Session App, we were on fire for more: The MUN Command Conference App. Unlike the Session App, which is operated only by one chairperson only, the Conference App allows every conference participant to interact through an individual login. This extra element finally allows previously unthinkable features: Statistics on which committee had more speeches, access to the Draft Resolution for everyone within the block before introduction and everyone in the committee after introduction. There is also a conference-wide chat feature, and delegates can add motions and points while seeing speakers lists on their devices. We launched the Conference App in November 2020 at SGMUN in Switzerland.
Around this time, we started asking ourselves what was firing us up so much to code on sunny weekends and until late at night. Without a doubt, it was all the MUNers who wouldn’t stop asking when they could finally use even the roughest version of our dream. We felt that we found a way to give back to a community that has made us who we are and created incredible friendships worldwide. Nowadays, we want every student to be part of at least one MUN conference in their student life. You read this right: Every single student in the world. And we are building the software to make organizing a conference easier, participation more accessible and debate more fruitful.
It is not an overstatement to say that these past two years have changed who I am. Not only did I pick up some coding, but I also made incredible friends: Alex, Alex and Tobi. Yasmine and Joshua joined our team and now support our Social Media. Let’s also not forget the many fantastic MUNers from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe who enrich us with their constant feedback, MUN stories, and expertise. Thanks to everyone who trusted and supported us along the way. If this is where we got in less than two years, where will we be in two more?
*Disclaimer: I am more than aware of the immense human suffering caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic and hope you are not offended by this spark of positivity. Get vaccinated, everybody!