Crisis Notes: Dos and Don’ts

Crisis notes are an elusive and complex mistress; so fickle and situation dependent. In other words, I guess, every crisis director is looking for something different. Therefore, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all way to write notes. However, here’s a standard list of the dos and don’ts for writing notes which may be helpful if you are new to the crisis scene, or if you are seasoned but are finding your notes falling a bit short. I would also recommend our full article on crisis committees for any other tips and tricks.

Do: Choose a style and stick with it

  • There are several different formats in which one can write a crisis note. A favorite of some (*cough* *cough* Casey) is that of the letter. This format is great for creating a narrative. It works exactly how you think it does, basically you address all notes to different people as your character. Ex: “Dear Wife, can you please let me know the status of our estate. Xoxo, Your Husband”. This is great for establishing crisis contacts and allies that can collect info for you. The other popular style is that of the command note (Kyla’s fave) (I have no idea what kind Carol likes, sorry). This is basically done by communicating with crisis in a direct way. Ex: “I would like to contact a bodyguard trained in hand to hand combat and hire him full-time”. While this doesn’t build quite the same level of narrative, it is very effective in getting things done quickly and communicating clearly. I like it because I am only managing myself and my actions and a director is less likely to throw you a curveball where the person you were writing a letter to suddenly dies or something like that. Not trying to convince you, both are great. However, try and choose a style and sick with it. It allows staffers to understand and anticipate your notes which leads to better repore. 

Don’t: Be Irreverent

  • I love funny crisis arcs. Like LOVE them. It’s my go to and can be super effective. They’re unexpected and harder for other delegates to block, and the staff generally likes an engaging and funny arc because it entertains them. However, stay on topic. I have seen way too many delegates go off the rails and create these ridiculous arcs which end up leading to nowhere. The farther off the trail you get, the harder it is to close out and complete your goals. Also, the more annoyed a more serious staffer will get. If you try a funny note and get a negative response, (a “no” or otherwise) don’t push it. Read the room, director, and staffers, don’t force your narrative upon a committee which will gladly block your plans and leave you without an award. Basically, know your limits.

Do: Be Specific

  • Oh, how many crisis notes have I personally shot down because people don’t include specifics. Crisis plans should be elucidated down to the minutiae. Girl, if i ever see one of y’all send a note saying “I would like to kill such and such” or “I would like to acquire troops” with no plan, I will personally scold you. Never forget, crisis is always looking for holes in your plans and will take advantage of them. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Tell them how you are getting your supplies, where they are coming from, how much money you are spending, where that money is coming from, so on and so forth. Have your ducks in a row and your who, what, when, where, how’s all in order when you send your note, especially if its a note associated with a Big Move. Be specific and get that plan executed.

Don’t: Write Novels

  • This may seem contradictory since I just told you to be as specific as possible, but let me explain. I’m asking you, as I am sure your middle school English teacher did as well, to cut out the fluff. A note may edge long if you are writing out a long, intricate plan; but if every single note you write is a page long, you’re doing it wrong. Stay concise and figure out a way to rephrase to be as accurate and as quick as possible. The more time you spend writing these long stories (that a staffer will skim in 3 seconds), the less time you are spending debating, listening, or writing directives. Your longest notes should be the ones executing major plans, and length should always correspond with importance. Also, I am not coming for you if you have big handwriting, because same here and I will make an exception for you.

Do: Have The Proper Materials

  • This is an ~aesthetic~ recommendation for paper note conferences, but it’s also practical. I suggest writing notes on colored paper or with a colored pen so you can see where your note is if its getting passed around. Also, it helps crisis staffers recognize which notes are your which helps response time. Not to mention the subtle office supplies flex which is oh so important for conference clout. I’ll also take this time to recommend a legal pad (or a MUN01 branded notebook! Check out our merch!). If you use a long sheet of paper, there will be plenty of space for crisis to respond so you can keep track of dialogue on one sheet. Furthermore, if you send in a note on a little crumpled ripped piece of paper, I guarantee your chance of that note being lost in the paper flood increases 10-fold. 

Other tips:

  • Do: Have Legible Handwriting
  • Don’t: Push The Same Crisis Idea More Than Once
  • Do: Be Well Researched
  • Don’t: Complain Excessively About Response Times
  • Do: Establish Rapport With Your Staffer
  • Don’t: Take It Personally If Your Arc Isn’t The Main Arc
  • Do: Pass Other People’s Notes Quickly
  • Don’t: EVER EVER Read Other People’s Notes
  • Do: Keep Your Notes For Future Reference In Other Sessions
  • Don’t: Leave Crumpled Notes on the Floor

As always, this is not comprehensive, but I hope it helps. Crisis notes take time to master and it is all by trial and error. What works at one conference may not work at another, but if you stay within these suggestions you will be able to adjust and succeed (I hope). Good luck and godspeed, send us your fave crisis notes (funny, effective, etc.)  for a chance to be featured in upcoming content!

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Questions to Ask When Reading a Background Guide

A background guide can be a daunting document (shouts to us for alliteration). Here are some good questions to ask when reading your guide for the first, second, or tenth time.

While reading the letter from the chair:

  • What are the chair’s hobbies?
  • Are they passionate about the topic?
  • How long have they been doing MUN?

While reading the background information:

  • What time period is the committee set in?
  • Where is the committee set?
  • Who is the king/queen/president/prime minister/etc. at the time?
  • What’s the general situation?
  • What are the questions to consider?
  • Is there information in the background that helps address some of the questions to consider?
  • What information seems irrelevant (if any)?

While reading the list of positions

  • What does your position say?
  • Do you have any sort of power?
  • Who are you allies and who are your enemies?
  • Do you have a significant other?
  • What are your past political ties?
  • Who seems to be easily persuaded and who seems stubborn?

While looking at the sources:

  • Are they all from wikipedia?
  • Are some of the websites foreign?
  • Are there a lot of “.edu” or “.gov” websites? (these often have other really good sources linked to them)
  • Which ones can you use to find more information on your position?
  • Are there a lot of books referenced or is it mostly internet sources?
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How to Read a Background Guide

A good background guide gets better with each read. Because of that, we think it’s important to look at all of the included information not just once, but sometimes five times. There will always be stuff you missed, or things you can build on to work with your arc or to write a great resolution.

The First Look

This is where you’re going to get an idea for what the committee will actually focus on. We’ll take it step by step, cover to cover.

The first thing you’ll typically see in a background guide are letters from the chair (and maybe crisis director) – these are sometimes interesting to read. These are typically introductory letters where the chairs and CDs introduce themselves and say what they’re interested in. They’re typically pretty informal. I like to know what my dais members are interested in and if they have a particular passion for the topic (which they hopefully do). Sometimes you can also gauge how experienced they are as a delegate, which should give you some indication of how debate will go. What we mean by this is that sometimes more inexperienced chairs have a harder time controlling the room and may use stricter parliamentary procedure in order to try and bring about order to the room instead of just going with the flow of debate. How to control a room is learned in time, and is something even the most experienced chairs may have trouble with. Check out our article on how to be a great chair here.  Also if you’re looking to get on your chair’s good side, bringing up one of the hobbies and talking to them about it is a great way to make connections on the circuit. 

Past the letters will be the first bit of information relevant to the committee: background and introductory information. This information has been researched by the dais members and chosen specifically for the committee. Do a general read of this at first to see what time period you’ll be in and what the big issues are. More in-depth reads will come later in the background guide reading process. 

Next you will typically encounter “questions to consider.” An oft-overlooked bit of the guide, these questions will essentially guide debate. They are created by the dais to specifically lead debate to talk about those questions (i.e. this is what the dais wants you to talk about). Read through these carefully. It’s far more important to absorb the questions the dais wants you to ask and skim through the background information at first, and we’ll tell you why in a minute. 

Past this will be position information. These short little bios tell you important and relevant information about the positions in the committee. Sometimes a fun fact will be included in the bio which can often be helpful in building an arc or getting people to side with you on an issue. Look at your position’s bio first. It’s important to take in everything that the dais has included that they believe is relevant to your place in committee. From this, then look back at the other positions and see who your allies may be. 

Love at (Second) Sight

Now’s when you’ll really get into the meat of the guide. Using the “questions to consider” part, look again at the background information. Is there anything in there that specifically addresses one or more of the questions? If the guide is written well, there should be. Highlight, circle, or do whatever to this info so you can look back at it later. There’s a reason the writers put it in the guide, so use it. This is why it’s more helpful to look at the questions before doing a deep dive into the background material. Now you’re able to focus more on what the dais wants you to know without getting sidetracked by other information that may not be as relevant. 

Look at the positions again, but this time using your new information from the guide. Are there any positions that are radically against the situation? Who is on your side and who’s on the opposing side? How many positions are on the opposing side? Are you friends with anyone? Check the article here for more questions to ask while reading a guide so you get the full picture of what’s going on. 

Now look at the sources at the end of the guide. Another underrated part of the guide, these sources are often the key to good research. In this article about how to research a position, we talk about doing a deep dive into the sources as one of the first steps to good research. When you’re looking at the sources, try and figure out what the writers of the guide left out. Is there any information that you find important that wasn’t featured in the guide? If so, make a note of it. 

The Third Read (and On)

This is where you really pick apart the information. How are you going to address the questions, and how does your position play into the situation that you’ll be discussing. Make sure you don’t graze over anything in the guide, the dais wrote this guide a certain way for a reason. Try and absorb all the information you can from it, and then take to the books and the internet to look for more information. It’s better to be over-researched and use only 20% of it in debate than to have very little research and the debate is focused on the 20% you didn’t look at.

Good luck and hit us up at with any comments, questions, or other fun things!

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What is a Crisis Committee?

Crisis committees are like General Assembly committees in the sense that they both follow Parliamentary Procedure, focus on solving a problem, and (if you’re in a good room) incite lively debate. That’s about where the similarities end. 

Basic Structure

Crisis committees are based around a central situation, the “crisis,” which delegates are pushed to solve over the course of the committee. For example, a common crisis committee topic is the American Revolutionary War. For a committee like this, delegates may be starting debate in the middle of a battle and have to come up with battle plans, or they may be at the tail end of the war and have to start building a government. In crisis committees, delegates are typically given people, characters, or specific positions (e.g. Russian Embassy Official, Senior VP of Marketing) to represent rather than acting as a country representative. 

In-Room vs. Out-of-Room

In the committee room, debate will often focus on the bigger problems at hand. Oftentimes solving these problems in only a few committee sessions is a lofty goal. How do you stop human trafficking globally while also trying to crack down on the black market sale of illegal weapons used by traffickers? I’d go so far as to say that the point of committee is rarely to completely solve a problem, but rather to make some sort of progress towards solving a small part of the problem. Sure, it would be nice to find a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I doubt that a room full of high school or college delegates can do that over the course of a weekend (but if you can, you’d probably receive some sort of Nobel Prize). Delegates in the room will likely try to be cooperative – this is often because they are doing something shady outside of the committee room through the crisis team.

The Crisis Room

There are two rooms in crisis committees – the debate room and the crisis room. The crisis room is where staffers from the conference answer notes from delegates regarding the committee and their personal plan for how they want their position to affect committee. This plan is called an “arc.” A crisis arc is used by a delegate to influence actions in the debate room and also affect the outcome of committee through actions not taken in the debate room.

For example, if a delegate’s position in a committee structured like a political cabinet was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the goal of the committee was to solve some sort of environmental crisis, the delegate could use their individual powers (called “portfolio powers”) as the Sec. of HUD to start research into more sustainable construction practices. Since this isn’t an issue that the whole committee might be interested in, that delegate could send a note to crisis saying something along the lines of “please reach out to scientists in my department and tell them to look into more sustainable ways to build housing.” We’ll break down crisis arcs and how to do them properly in a separate article. What you should know for now is that every delegate in the room could potentially be working on a secret plan to impact committee, and that plan isn’t always positive.

Crisis Notes

Crisis notes are how delegates in the debate room communicate plans for their personal arc to staffers in the crisis room. They can be anywhere from one sentence to a full page long – different conferences prefer different styles of notes and it’s often a game of trial-and-error to see what the crisis staff responds to best. One thing to note with crisis notes is specificity. The more specific your notes (try to answer who, what, when, where, and sometimes why in your notes) the better your response is going to be. Also try and make sure that there are no errors in your spelling in the notes – instead of sending 50 planes to rescue people, you could send 50 plans because you simply forgot an “e.”

Tips and Tricks (without getting too in-depth)

  • Be specific in and out of room! Specificity in your speaking, directives, and crisis notes will let other delegates and staff know that you know what you’re talking about and may increase your chances of awarding.
  • Creativity is big, especially when it comes to crisis notes. The more interesting a note or arc is, the better your responses from crisis are likely to be. This doesn’t mean you should go off-position though – if your position wouldn’t do something in real life, it’s very likely crisis won’t let you do it in committee. 
MUN delegate writing on legal pad

What is a JCC?

JCC, The Acronym

We all know that Model United Nations, MUN, loves acronyms. To learn more about MUN acronyms and terms, check out our official MUN Term Glossary. JCC stands for “Joint Crisis Committee.” As the name would imply, JCCs are crisis committees, meaning they follow crisis procedure. You can read more about crisis committees here. Before launching yourself into the world of JCCs, you should have a strong grasp on crisis committee procedure and how crisis powers function. However, JCCs are special in that they are not only one committee room.

The Structure

So if a JCC is not made up of one committee room, how many are there exactly? Typically, JCCs are made up of two, separate committee rooms. However, some conferences are experimenting with “JCCs” that are, in reality, three, four, five, or more committee rooms. Regardless of the size of a JCC, the rest of the structure remains the same. The committee rooms in a JCC are separate in their physical location, but united under the same committee topic. Take the most fundamental JCC, the war themed JCC, for example. One committee room can be on one side of the war while the other committee room is on the other side of the war. A popular committee for this type is the American Revolution. One room would be the British and the other would be the American Revolutionaries. 

To summarize, JCCs are often two, separate committee rooms (sometimes more) that are battling against each other. Crisis operates in the same universe and actions from one committee can affect the other. Usually there is a “win condition” that will end the committee on Sunday morning with one room being victorious over the other. Typically JCCs will be themed as wars (cold or regular) and have a high likelihood of war games happening.

How Should I Prepare for Committee?

Alright, so you volunteered or were volun-told to be in a JCC. What now? Hopefully, you’ve already got your crisis game down. This isn’t to say your first ever committee shouldn’t be a JCC. In fact, my first committee was a five way JCC. Hear all about that in Episode #3 of the podcast here. Just make sure you know crisis procedure and that you understand the powers of crisis notes well. From there, follow the normal steps to research your crisis position and prepare your arc. We have multiple articles on how to do this from background guide strategies to questions you can ask yourself while reading one.  Keep in mind that everybody’s strategy for a JCC differs. You can go into committee and play anything from the strong leader fighting for your side’s cause to the traitor feeding information to the other side. Make sure to read up on your position and understand their motivations and figure out a strategy that will work with that as well as your own strong suits.

For JCCs, you will need to go the extra step in researching a bit about the other side. Read their background guide, if it’s a separate document, and take note of a couple things. 

  • What is their motivation in the fight? (Land, wealth, information, control, etc.)
  • What positions are in the other room? (Who you should worry about and who you can work with)
  • What kind of resources do they have? (What kind of things can they use on your side)

What Will I See in a JCC?

In every JCC I’ve ever been in, there’s always someone, two, or three who feeds information to the other side. There’s always been the leader rallying people against the other side. There’s always been the loud dissident fighting for the cause but against the leader. These are all archetypes that you will see in a normal crisis committee except for the first. You need to be aware that nothing you say or do in committee will stay secret within the room. Another new aspect to committee will be the communication that is available between the two committee rooms. You’ll be able to create crisis arcs that involve both rooms and may even be able to meet face to face for secret hallway meetings.

Parting Words

Don’t be scared about going into a JCC. If you understand crisis, going into a JCC will feel familiar, but with fun, fresh aspects that will keep committee engaging and exciting. It’s always interesting to battle against the crisis room in a typical committee, but it’s a whole new level to battle against another room full of delegates. 

This article covers a topic that was discussed in Episode #14 of the MUN01 Podcast. Listen to the episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Questions, comments, and concerns can be shared with us at or through our “Contact” page. All feedback is appreciated!

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What is a General Assembly Committee?

When the typical person envisions Model UN, it is likely that they will immediately picture a General Assembly (GA) committee. This is the ~classic~ form of MUN which has sprouted all the other fun variations that we have talked about (i.e. Crisis).

GA Structure

In my opinion, the best way to describe a GA committee is that it mimics the actual UN. While Crisis committees can cover any topic in the world and can have several different structures, a GA is traditionally a more literal interpretation of what the United Nations does. Many of these committees will follow actual UN bodies, like DISEC, UNODC, or UNHRC. The topics in these committees tend to be historical or current day, as they will either allow you the opportunity to go back and solve a real world global crisis as the UN in a way which you think would have been better, or take on a current global issue that hasn’t quite been handled yet. A good example of this would be UNODC (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) covering the topic of international drug trafficking. This is a very real issue that the UN would potentially pass a resolution on. Furthermore, to keep with UN structure, delegates will typically represent countries instead of individuals. Therefore, you have to know your nation’s foriegn policy, heads of state and government, and allies. For more info on how to prep for a GA, see our article on pre-conference research.While this is the standard way that GAs work, that is not to say there are not other GA style committees that are futuristic or that act as non-UN bodies, it is just less common. I’ll get more into the unconventional GA styles in a bit.

How GAs Run

As far as the way the committee runs, it is an amalgamation of parliamentary procedure, debate, and writing. Parli pro is far more stringent in GA committees. Now, I’m not trying to intimidate you, everyone can always improve on parli pro and mistakes happen to beginners and advanced delegates alike. However, the function of the committee is much more dependent on the structure of traditional parli pro than in a crisis committee. For a more expanded view of how the parli pro works and in what order things happen, see our outline of GA parliamentary procedure. 

Debate is vital in GA committees, mostly because there is no other aspect of committee. There are no crisis notes in a standard GA committee, you may only write notes to fellow delegates (which you should absolutely do to plan ideas for resolutions and build alliances). Because of the lack of crisis, your speaking is the most important part of your performance. Come in knowledgeable and ready to think on your feet, because speeches will make or break your award potential. Unmoderated caucuses will also be vital to your success in a GA. This is the time where you will convince people to believe in your proposed solution. Charm their pants off, have answers to their questions, and rebut the opponents. For more info on unmods and how to become a superstar at them, click here.

Writing is the other major aspect of a GA, as the committee will culminate in the passing of a resolution, which is a very large, comprehensive, and collaborative piece meant to solve the issue at hand. Generally, two resolutions will be presented, one from each block (a group of allies that are working for the same solution), but only one will be passed. If both are passed, any parts of the second resolution that contradict the first resolution will hold true over the first. Resolutions, like most GA things, are more structured than their crisis counterpart: directives. Preambulatory clauses, operative clauses, signatories, sponsors; it’s all a little convoluted. However, it can be learned pretty easily with some practice. See our article on writing resolutions to learn more about the process (wow how many self-promos is that now? 6?). 

Unconventional GAs

I won’t spend too much time on this, because this is supposed to be an into article, i suppose. However, I think it’s important to mention the fact that there are some kinds of GA committees that don’t quite fit into what I previously described. There are futuristic committees that may fall into a GA style, like an intergalactic governing council. There, too, may be a committee that doesn’t have you act as a country but rather as an individual, like a board of directors of a major company. You may also find yourself in an “adjusted crisis” committee. Don’t panic if that’s the case, you’ll make it. Generally, those are a GA style committee with resolutions and all the typical things, but they allow crisis notes in some capacity. It may be limited crisis powers or you may have to send group notes to encourage cooperation. However it is structured, it should be outlined in the background guide (read this to learn how to use a background guide well). If not, ask your chair! They’ll gladly explain, its their job.

Final Thoughts

GAs often get a bad rap from crisis delegates and are seen as stuffy and hoity-toity versions of the scrappy and often silly crisis committees. However, without GA, we wouldn’t have crisis, so lets collectively pour one out for the homies who choose to devote their MUN careers to mastering the fickle art of the GA. If you are a debate person, a UN, history, or international relations junkie, or just got excited by this article, this style of committee may be for you. Long live the GA dels (and the crisis dels that got their start in GA, like me). I hope this gave you an idea of what you are getting yourself into and will give you a basic roadmap for success in committee. Good luck!

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How To Be A Great Chair

A great chair is often made of a “softwood” that is in fact quite durable and weather resistant, like beech or teak. However, a great Model UN conference chair is made up of much more than that. This article will quickly cover the five of the most important things that make a great chair.

Knowledge of parliamentary procedure

Paramount to being a great chair is simply a good knowledge of parliamentary procedure. Now, this isn’t to say that a great chair needs to have a massive textbook knowledge of every tiny loophole and trick within parliamentary procedure. This means that a typical chair should be able to move through debate, unmoderated caucuses, and voting procedure with no problems. If chairs are trained correctly, parliamentary procedure should not be a difficult task to master. Training chairs for conference is extremely important. Conference secretariat can also improve chairs by maintaining communications with chairs over instant messaging to quickly answer any questions that may arise during committee. Feedback from head delegates is also important in addressing common parliamentary mistakes that chairs may be making and adjusting during conference time. Ideally, this feedback will translate into alterations and improvements for next year’s conference. Chairs themselves can read up on the training materials provided on our website here to prep for their conference role.  


While maintaining proper parliamentary procedure is important, chairs should be aware that there are times when suspending the rules of procedure or expediting committee through a “chair’s discretion” act is necessary. Generally, once or twice per conference (and most often in crisis committees) there comes a point during committee or a timed crisis that committee could be best streamlined by making temporary adjustments in procedure. However, it is up to the chair to determine when this is appropriate. Flexibility demonstrates that chairs have a good knowledge of parliamentary procedure, but also a good knowledge of the flow of committee and when to override parliamentary procedure.  

A positive, friendly attitude

The best chair I ever had was a first time chair, who embodied all of these points but especially this one. The first time I staffed a conference, I thought that because I was on a dais I had to be serious and help run the room strictly. However, that is not the case. The more I have gained experience as a delegate, the more I have realized that I genuinely enjoy my time in committees where the chair is also having a good time. A good chair shouldn’t be afraid to smile, be friendly, and laugh. While that sounds cheesy, it’s true. Especially at the collegiate level, it’s fun to be able to joke with your chair or have a great conversation with them and other delegates at socials. In committee, chairs who are positive and understanding are enjoyable to be in the room with. It is always appreciated when chairs genuinely attempt to connect with the room they are in.     


While this may apply more to a chair who is working with a high school conference, I still have seen collegiate rooms run amok because the chair doesn’t have control. This is not saying that chairs need to rule with an iron fist–that typically backfires and results in the room losing respect. Generally, losing control happens in a room where the chair is indecisive and often does not have a great grasp on parliamentary procedure. It is completely possible to be a personable, friendly chair while still maintaining control over a room. What needs to be maintained is respect. Delegates respect a chair who knows their parliamentary procedure and gets along with the committee. Being indecisive is a pitfall that some chairs end up in if they are not experienced in parliamentary procedure. Delegates can sense this and will often end up debating with the chair themselves over procedure to sway the chair’s decision. Ultimately, decisions for committee procedure are left to the chair and the chair should effectively wield this power. Chairs should be decisive, but appropriate in their use of “chair’s discretion”. 

An active in-room delegate

This is not to say that there can’t be great conference staff that doesn’t travel with the competitive team. However, overwhelmingly, great chairs are often in the role of delegate themselves. While chairs that don’t travel can be and have been fantastic, the more a delegate gains experience on the circuit, the more they can take their experiences and translate them into how they chair. I often learn and grow as a delegate and a conference staff member by learning from and emulating effective delegates and chairs. Learn what works elsewhere and use it to grow your conference, your chairing abilities, and yourself as a delegate. Often, the best chairs are the ones who understand what it’s like to be a delegate in a poorly run room and who strive to provide the best chairing to their committee.