Kudzai Mukaratirwa Interview – MUN’s Online Persona
by Ralf Yap
The internet is an indispensable utility. Its ability to be whatever we need it to be – a video streamer or an instant messenger – makes it an incredibly useful tool. But what is so uniquely powerful about the internet is that it is global. The scale and reach of the internet makes it the perfect channel for communicating and forming connections between people. This characteristic is embedded in its name – “inter-” meaning “between” or “together” and “-net” meaning “networks.” It is then the most logical move to bring MUN, which is the embodiment of universality, and the internet together in a marriage known as Online MUN (OMUN). After all, what better way to push change than through the most global medium.
At the forefront of OMUN is Kudzai Mukaratirwa, a Law and French student based in South Africa. Kudzai is the director of THIMUN OMUN, and I asked him a few questions about himself as well as the inner workings of OMUN.
Why did you feel it important to come to Doha to present at this year’s QLC?
This year has been a great and transformative year for OMUN. We have had recently been on cloud 9 after our big success of winning a World Youth Summit Award at the end of 2014 which was presented to one of our members at the Summit Award ceremony held in Brazil in early 2015. However, soon after this, we transitioned leadership teams and the program was not quite the same and did struggle. Earlier this year we changed a lot of our policies and structure and brought in the most impressive team of staff I’ve seen over my last few years at OMUN. They have been innovative, creative and most of all tenacious in their dedication to OMUN and their duties. Showcasing what they have managed to do in such in a short space of time and the exciting new direction OMUN is going as it branches out into more than just an online debate program is why I felt it important to present at QLC this year. To shine a light on the new and improved OMUN and its vibrant young team.
How would you connect leadership to Online Model UN?
The link between online Model UN and leadership is not obvious at first glance. This is another reason I felt it important to present at QLC this year. Our leadership team consists of 28 high school and university students from 5 continents, 15 countries and 6 timezones. Which makes our conference call meeting sometimes occasionally nightmarish. This group of students are all uniquely talented individuals with differing strengths and weaknesses. We have our Assistant Directors who are the university students – they work within smaller subdivisions the teams running our 4 debate programs, public relations, moderating, website and technology and the secretariat as a whole. Each subdivision team is made up of Deputy Secretary Generals (DSGs) and Executive Administrative Officers (EAO) as well was other positions in the public relations and moderating teams. These are all talented high school students who ensure the day to day running of the program is consistently kept up. They have a wide range of duties from updating debate cycles to planning national OMUN recruitment plans and running monthly training workshops.
I would struggle to find the words to do justice to the leadership skills my team has or how quickly they learn to adapt and work as a team in a very short space of time. They have displayed impressive interpersonal skills, teamwork and most importantly innovation. Although I haven’t answered the question in the most direct manner I hope the responsibilities on the shoulders of those who run OMUN illustrates how OMUN is connected to leadership.
Your sessions talk a lot about community: why is building a community an important leadership characteristic?
Building a community is an important leadership characteristic because it is a very telling sign of empathy. With empathy comes understanding and with understanding eventually comes peace through collaboration. In building our community we bring together a multitude of nationalities into a common space where they can speak as freely and imaginatively as they please as long as they remain respectful. Even when we do encounter some trouble and culture clash we have so far been able to resolve them much to the benefit of the student and program. Some of my most cherished OMUN memories are the ones of the delegates who didn’t fit in our program at first and required one on one dialogue to figure out the best way to integrate them into our community. Once we figure this out they often take like ducks to water as they grow from strength to strength and become some of the most active and passionate community members.
If a student wanted to be an online MUN leader, what would they need to do?
This is a great question as our recruitment process has transformed over the last year. Firstly they must participate in a minimum of 3 debates within the program and show that they have been active members of the OMUN program within our other non-debate programs. Essentially they must have an interest and basic understanding of the program. After this they must reach out to us and let us know why they would like to be a leader on our team and what they would intend to achieve in that position. What this year has taught us is that we don’t necessarily look for the most experienced leaders – experience can be taught and comes over time. What we look for in our leaders are a sense of self-responsibility, accountability and reliability. Those characteristics mixed with passion and a willingness to learn create the best leaders and that is what a student who wanted to be an OMUN leader would have to display.
You’ve been to THIMUN Qatar before: what is your favorite thing about the QNCC?
I love everything about QLC! It’s hands down my favourite conference venue I can’t decide between the spider and the food both of which are spectacular and sensational. Beyond pure aesthetics I love the fact that QNCC is so easy to navigate I never feel lost there which is a very comforting feeling. I look forward to being there again once again.