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I already gave a short overview when answering the question What do you need in order to create a proper Crisis Committee? , but I think it would make sense to build upon that and go a bit more into detail. Having run Crisis Committees both as a delegate and organizer for years, I probably have a lot of experience to share.
Compared to regular MUN Committees, a well working Crisis is quite different and requires a lot of work, but also delivers a unique experience.
In contrast to just giving a few topics and then just letting things flow, a crisis is more like a well-rounded screenplay. And that needs first and foremost a writer/director. A good one.
(And I hope that, after reading through my blahblah, I can help you become such a one ;) ).
The first steps before you can direct a screenplay are:
- Write the story
- Choose your cast carefully
For a Crisis Committee, it is just like that.
Unlike a short novel, however, your work is shaped and evolves as it plays out. The delegates will try to cope with your story and try to resolve it. So you want to keep them on their toes, draw them into the thick of the events and captivate them with a suspenseful story.
Sometimes the Delegates also come up with with unexpected ways to solve the crisis. And you have to be prepared for that.
Whether you write a historical crisis, a futuristic one or just "something that might happen soon", you must take into consideration, that you are writing a small piece of Drama.
And that means: Follow the classical arc of suspense and it's established stages:
In Detail this means the following:
This is where you "set the stage", the event that creates the crisis and brings the actors to the table. It should be a clear and present threat, maybe you even start with a bang. Just make sure it is not the biggest event in the crisis. Don't rush things. Let the delegates find their positions and their own way into the Crisis.
Let me dip into history and give you an example. When you do a historic scenario on the Cuban Missile Crisis, you don't start with the Blockade or even the Soviet Ships at the Quarantine Line. You start with the discovery of the missiles. Prepare some newspaper articles from that time and pin them somewhere visible to all. You lay the field, the background. You create and build up atmosphere.
At the Beginning there are hints and rumors, maybe a threat or an attack that throws the world leaders off their daily routine, but don't reveal too much.
At this point you just want to set the stage. And leave the possiblities for development wide open - both for you and for your delegates.
This is where the debate has to gain heat. Accusations fly, resolutions are far away and your delegates should exchange their positions. The more dramatic the better. You should fuel the conflict at this point. The last thing you want is a quick solution. Events should come thick and fast.
Divide the Nations as best as you can.
This is where allies try finding each other, where alliances start building and nations with a united position. Maybe a new Event redraws the board, breaks up established lines of alliance or conflict and establishes new ones.
From now on, slow the pace. Let the situation and the committee build up a bit, let tensions and suspense rise a bit. Only so that the Climax hits home.
This is it. The big bang of your crisis, the moment the villain reveals itself in a spectacular fashion or the hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of man comes crashing down.
It is the moment where the crisis escalates -
BUT: It is not a moment that decides the crisis and leaves only one outcome. Don't smother the committee at this stage. Shock them, but never rob them of all their options. Instead give them the chance to rise to the occasion and take a stand that leads the world (hopefully) out of this crisis.
During a future crisis of mine that depicted the arctic oil reserves as the last cache of fossil fuel, the climax was a secession of Greenland from Denmark, virtually eliminating Denmarks share of the claim on the arctic oil - and just an hour later (I read this out as one event, I did not wait another hour in real time), a US Naval Fleet "safeguarded" Greenland with a Naval Blockade, while at the same time the USA formally recognized Greenland as a sovereign nation.
That event shook the assembled nations and let's just say that NATO dissolved that day in that scenario, but it was a lot of fun for the delegates.
This example also shows another important point in regard to the climax:
It should not come too late. If you unleash such an event on the committee, it should not be at a point where they are almost done with their resolutions, as everything they have worked out until such a point will instantly become an exercise in futility. Plan and time it carefully.
And after this point, there shouldn't be much more new events that mix things up. Maybe one or two small developments or pieces of bonus information, but nothing that destroys the efforts the delegates have made until then. It would just lead to frustration.
This is the phase, during which the Crisis Committee -hopefully- comes up with one or more good ways to solve the issue. There should be no further escalation steps, only use them to maybe correct too strange ways of a solution.
It might very well be, that some or all resolutions fail due to veto powers. That is not a failure for the crisis and a rather realistic outcome. And sometimes it cannot be avoided at all. Although you should try do devise a Crisis that has other possible outcomes than an exchance of ICBMs ;)
Oh and another thing: Keep it realistic! Your crisis will -hopefully- be a piece of fiction, that's true. And no one stops you from making up a natural disaster, the start or threat of a new war or a devastating terrorist attack. Don't hesitate to think big, but also don't get lost in your ideas.
Casting a Crisis
Be careful which delegates you choose.
Delegates who are too shy and new to the concept and rules of MUN are probably not the best choice, obviously.
Sometimes I use someone whom I chose to call "Collaborator". That is someone who takes part in the crisis as a delegate, but is actually part of the Crisis Organization Team.
Collaborators can be used in many ways:
- To create a fuss and mix things up the way you want them.
- To guide the developing situation within the committee along the lines you want them.
- To represent critical nations that are at the heart of the crisis.
- All of the above at the same time.
Also, let Crisis Delegates write additional Info in their motivational letters. Or ask additional questions. They don't have to be in relation to the topic. Rather something that tells you a bit about their acting skills. Like:
"If you wanted to sit on the Iron Throne, how would you achieve that?"
"How they would remove a certain politician from power" etc.
Of course it is impossible to know who is a good character actor and who isn't. But asking such questions might give you a hint.
In the beginning...
Now that you layed out the playboard and put the pieces in place, let's see what's important to get the action going - and keeping it alive.
You should present your crisis with all the media available to you. Here are some Ideas:
- If you have one, make use of your conference Newspaper.
- Use fance presentation programs, like I use Prezi, for example.
Here is an example of how I do that for our two-hour sessions: Copy of United Nations Security Council by Grischa Beissner on Prezi
- Prerecord News with a camera and have one of your team be the newscaster that reads them out on screen in the committee.
- Alternatively let the Secretary General come into the committee and read out the escalation steps. Have the committee members stand up as he enters etc.
- Make it fancy: Use video clips, recorded speeches by politicians etc.
Remember: You're creating a suspenseful drama.
When to bring in Crisis Escalation Steps:
Timing might seem like an important factor, but in real life, catastrophies don't care about the timing either. Just don't dish out Escalation Steps too close to the evening. Before a lunch break is fine, though, as it gives your delegates something to talk about.
Just do not introduce them to quick after another and don't do too many of them.
What might be a good idea ist that you create a fixed timeline with few events along the suspense curve and do smaller, "optional" steps, that you can introduce when the debate slows down and that address different possible developments within the committee.
That is basically it, in a nutshell. Of course there a more tricks of the trade, but I will get to that in another post.
A few last things:
If you are keen on doing a Crisis that is a bit futuristic and doesn't happen in the next 5 years or so, you have to take quite a few more things into consideration. That's why I will include a special section in my upcoming Crisis Committees 201 in regard to these kinds of crisis.
Another thing to remember:
Merging resolutions in a Crisis Committee? No. Just no.