The IDIA Difference
Model United Nations and Model Congress can be about so much more than competition and padding one’s resume for college. Since IDIA began more than twenty years ago, we have kept a steady focus on the life skills that our conferences provide our students. IDIA conference staff undergoes an inn-depth training process designed to assess the needs of participating students, and offer them tools and techniques they can use at future conferences — but more importantly, they are trained to help develop in their delegates the tools necessary to become active members in their own communities.
The Committee Experience
What happens in the committee room can make or break a student’s experience at a conference. When students prepare for a professionally managed conference and arrive to an uncoordinated, haphazard event, not only have they lost their money, they have lost out on a potentially transformative experience. At IDIA conferences, our conference management teams and staff are dedicated to ensuring that every delegate at our conferences has the experience they seek. Experienced participants are likely looking for the opportunity to hone their persuasive speaking skills, or to better develop their ability to respond to changing circumstances. Newer delegates are often looking for the chance to become more comfortable speaking in public, developing their research and writing skills, and step outside their comfort zone.
Lots of conferences and organizations offer those experiences. But these programs have so much more potential.
At IDIA, we recognize that a Model United Nations conference, whether it’s a one-day program or a 4-day event, has the opportunity to meaningfully impact the lives of every participant. Students talk about issues that are not on the front page and are challenged to develop creative solutions. Our committees don’t create subcommittees, and they don’t shift the responsibility. Whether they’re talking about an issue like The Responsibility to Protect, or the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, our delegates are challenged to step beyond their comfort zones and develop creative solutions. They take what they’ve learned at our conferences and not only bring their experiences back to their classmates, but become active in the own communities. We know we’ve done our jobs right when we learn after the conference that our delegates have begun volunteering at an organization they learned about at our programs, they have started a new club in their school, or they have taken meaningful action to positively impact the world around them.
IDIA is more than just Model UN
What happens when the conference ends and everyone goes home? For most, the Model UN experience is over.
But for IDIA participants, the opportunity to remain involved continues. Our goal is not to create better Model UN delegates, and it’s not to get our students into college. We support those efforts, but they’re not at the center of our focus. Our Model UN and Model Congress conferences are a vehicle.
We educate our participants about important issues. We empower them by developing critical life skills. And we engage them in bringing about positive social change.
It’s easy to get lost in the subculture of Model UN. Students in Africa have to walk 5 miles to school, so the UN should buy them all bicycles. Problem solved. Global economic inequality can be solved with microloans. Problem solved. Bed nets can eradicate malaria. Problem solved.
If you don’t know any better, those ideas seem to make sense, and if that’s all your director knows about, resolutions including those ideas are likely to save the day. But what happens when you travel to West Africa and talk to teachers and students about their own experiences? What happens when you travel to Mexico to and meet with recipients of microloans and hear those stories first-hand? What happens when you see people unable to be active in their own communities because they’re in an a vicious cycle of malaria and disease?
You realize that these issues are far more complicated than they are made out to be. You recognize that if the “easy solutions” of the past actually made a difference, then we wouldn’t still be talking about those issues. You understand that solutions are about more than buzzwords and soundbytes. Solutions require research, fresh ideas, and innovative solutions.
At IDIA, our staff members come a diverse, global community. Their experiences are as varied as their majors. Don’t learn about malaria from a political science major, learn about it from someone studying public health. Learn about global disarmament from someone who works at the Conference on Disarmament. Understand how young people can get involved in the world around them from Youth Delegates to the United Nations.