Guest Article: Chairing Social Responsibility

Article written by Andy

Andy is an Indonesian with a weirdly American accent.  As her final year of university draws near, now she mostly joins MUN conferences to meet her friends and reminisce the good old (chaotic) days. It helps that she loves dark jokes, music, poetry, and writing – things that many MUNers also share the love for.

If you ask me how the hell I managed to survive my first Model UN conference, you better ask my first chair, because she’s the one who knows. Or rather, she’s the reason I survived – and fell into the rabbit hole of Model UN.

My first committee was the UN Human Rights Council. I chose it thinking that it would be slow-paced and filled with fellow beginners instead of heated debates and pro delegates spitting fire. I have no idea what my chair saw in me back then – being the shy delegate that can’t speak up in unmods and whose voice quivered when speaking on the podium – but in a committee whose top 3 awardees are all seasoned veterans, the Verbal Commendation she gave me ended up becoming my motivation to continue Model UN until this far; in a way, it’s a sign that Model UN welcomes me.

Last month, my first chair recently graduated from university. I sent her a message on Instagram, thanking her for the Verbal Commendation she gave me back then. She needs to know how her small gesture ended up having so much impact on how I’ve grown in Model UN and as a person.

Because if my chair hadn’t made my first committee so enjoyable, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with it, and I certainly wouldn’t have made it my mission to become a chair that could do the same.

There is no fixed rule on when a delegate should begin transitioning into being a chair – we just know. For me, the moment came when I won my first, last, and only ‘double shotgun’: Best Position Paper and Best Delegate. On one hand, there are sentimental reasons behind putting my delegate career on hiatus: I knew I wouldn’t be able to repeat the performance I gave, at least not with another co-delegate (which might require a whole new article). On the other hand, the moment I got that award, I felt a sense of relief – as if there’s a burning fire inside me that got put out, and in its place was peace. I knew I have already gained enough lessons from Model UN. The desire to share my experiences through chairing and coaching gradually phased out the remaining shreds of competitive hunger I have as a delegate.

Chairpersons are the face of their committees. They’re the first persons a delegate faces in an MUN conference. For delegates, their chairperson’s conduct will influence how they view the entire conference. Was the chair friendly or strict? Were they professional? Were his or her decisions clear and justifiable, or were they biased? For newbies in particular, how a chairperson conducts their first conference will shape their first impression on what MUN is like. As explained above, my first chair made me see that MUN is enjoyable. Unfortunately, a lot of my friends didn’t have the same experience in their first committees. I’ve had talented delegates decide to not continue MUN because they didn’t find their committees enjoyable. Good chairpersons make MUN something to look forward to for their delegates. Bad or mediocre chairpersons make MUN a chore, or worse, a traumatic experience.

A chairperson should use their influence to become the heart of their committees or conferences they staff at. This is where having a clear chairing vision is important. Excellent chairpersons have a clear vision on why they chair, which guides them in conducting the debate and gives them a distinctive style. Some chairpersons are there to create substantive and high-quality debates. Some may focus on chairing issues they are passionate on, be it hard politics or softer social issues. Other chairs may focus on delegate development and in sharing their experiences. Personally, my chairing vision is a specific part of the third example: I want to create committees that could welcome all its participants in the world of Model UN. I always strive to make my study guide clear and understandable, so that delegates can have a good understanding of the topic. During the committee session, I made sure to be firm with the Rules of Procedure and keep a professional distance, but outside the debate I open myself to know them both as a person and as a delegate. I want my delegates to get the most out of their conferences: good debates, connections, self-development, and all that MUN could give.

The chairing vision I have now became solidified when I became the Head Chair of UNESCO Singapore MUN 2019. Since almost all of UNESCO was beginners to MUN, the debate got stuck at several points. I started talking to them in between committee sessions to know what their difficulties are and what they need from us chairs. To my surprise, the delegates actually respected us more once we showed that we’re open to them. Gradually, we got closer, and many of them started telling me more about their personal lives. Even long after SMUN 2019 ended, my UNESCO delegates and I still kept in touch. We hung out when I came to Singapore last July. One of them even became a MUN mentee of mine! She routinely came to me for MUN advice even after SMUN, and once invited me to help coach her school’s delegation. The biggest surprise was when she told me that her mother – who was in the UNESCO committee room – gave positive reviews for me as a chair! She said ‘my mom said you’re the best chair she’s ever seen, she likes how you brought yourself up there and how you talk’. I am touched to know that my delegates (and their parents, wow) saw a positive influence in me. That experience showed me how influential chairs are to a delegate’s MUN career – both in starting out and in moving forward.

All in all, everyone chairs for different reasons. Some for prestige, other for connections, and I know most of us want to enjoy the MUN atmosphere without having to suffer in the debate. For me, my MUN journey made me realize that chairing is also a community service for the next generation. All of us veterans who have become chairs have to give the best of our expertise and instill the love of MUN to our successors. The more we realize our influence on the MUN community, the more we will work to create the best MUN experience for our delegates. Even after university, the MUN world goes on – but we can, and should leave our legacies while the time is here.

MUN01 would like to thank Andy for her thoughtful contribution. We will be accepting new guest writers soon, so keep a look out for opportunities to be featured on!

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