„Let’s not reinvent the wheel every year“ – Dessislava Kirova on South Africa’s bid for WUDC 2017

Datum: Jan 28th, 2015
Category: International, Menschen, Mittwochs-Feature

South Africa is currently applying to host the World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC) in 2017. Should the bid be successful, Dessislava Kirova would form the Chief Adjudication panel, together with Gemma Buckley from Australia and Syed Saddiq from Malaysia. Anne Gaa spoke with her about her plans for the Worlds.

Achte Minute: How did you get to be nominated by the South African OrgCom? Is there a special relationship between the German and South African debating communities?

Dessislava Kirova: It was quite surprising. At the Paris Open 2013, I met someone who was, at that time, part of the organizing team. That connection resulted in me being asked to be the Chief Adjudicator at the Pan-African Championship in 2014. When tabmasters were needed, Manuel Adams and Patrick Ehmann joined me. They also organized an online seminar for African debaters, the Tab Academy. When the WUDC franchise came to Berlin in 2013, we met debaters from Simbabwe and Sudan and started to cooperate with them as well.

AM: Why did last year’s bid for WUDC 2016 go to Greece and not South Africa?


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Dessislava: The main reason was time. South Africa was rather late in going public and key people from the organizing committee ran into problems with flights and visas. I was only asked to join the panel in December and a month just is not enough to get people excited about a bid.
It was also unfortunate that discussions about the bid became dominated by security concerns, which I thought were unwarranted. Similar issues were raised about Manila Worlds in 2012 and they turned out to be unfounded. But you have to address these fears, which is why OrgCom has chosen Sun City, a resort two hours outside of Johannesburg, as the main location for this year’s bid.

AM: Why wasn’t the bid decided at this year’s worlds, as it is usually done?

Dessislava: The budget of the South African bid wasn’t finalized and there were no other applicants.

AM: Being CA at Worlds comes with the opportunity to set your own agenda. What is your panel focussing on?

Dessislava: Our work will be shaped by three central ideas: to increase the diversity of independent adjudicators, to improve the adjudicators’ preparation, and to formalize some of the existing structures.
The field of adjudicators at Worlds is often rather uniform in terms of geography, gender, and language categories. The selection of independent adjudicators could be a useful tool to diversify. Judging quality is obviously paramount, but we are optimistic that both quality and diversity can be improved at the same time.
Concerning judges’ preparation, we seek to improve the resources available for ambitious judges. There is a wealth of online content helping speakers to improve, but judges are rarely considered. A full year before the tournament, we will start providing online content and workshops allowing adjudicators at any level of experience to study and improve.
The idea of formalization is closely connected to that. Every debating society knows how challenging it is to transfer its institutional knowledge to the next generation. Each year’s Chief Adjudication panel does incredible work, but I fear that a lot of it could get lost when the closing ceremony ends. We need some sort of structure to preserve the knowledge and experience we gain, such as a blog.

AM: How did you get the idea to start a blog and what sort of content do you want to publish?

Dessislava: All content needs to be online, that is clear. Kuala Lumpur had an extensive manual, compiled from the briefings of the last two or three Euros and Worlds. What is missing is a central repository that collects this knowledge and allows its discussion. When knowledge is easily accessible, it doesn’t get lost. If South Africa wins the bid, we will strive to establish such a system and hand over the keys to whoever follows in our footsteps, hoping that it will be perpetuated. A blog could be a central hub for tournament preparation and training; it can facilitate discussions, allow the administration of Chief Adjudicators’ and independent adjudicators’ applications, or help hosts to organize tournaments. One example: Almost any tournament today has different layouts for its feedback forms. A common template that can be individualized to personal taste could save time and energy while improving quality. As with the briefing books of Worlds and Euros that have started to built on each other: We don’t need to reinvent the wheel every year.

AM: There are three or four open Deputy Chief Adjudicator (DCA) positions. What’s the application process and how important is it for you that candidates share your goals?

BildDessislava: There will be a questionnaire for aspiring DCAs. Once all applications are in, we will publish their names and solicit feedback from the wider community. Our decisions will be based on the candidates’ answers and public feedback. One restriction is our wish to see all continents represented in the DCA pool.
A DCA will need to be broadly aligned with our main goals, because it would be impossible to communicate and reach those goals without the DCAs’ support. If we added another seven goals or so, none would get the attention they need and nothing would get done. But there will be plenty of opportunity to contribute smaller-scale improvements.

AM: Are you open to suggestions?

Dessislava: Yes, of course. We encourage everyone to include suggestions in their application. It’s a good way for us to judge the applicants’ level of engagement. If we encounter ideas that have the potential to improve Worlds in a meaningful way, we won’t hesitate to adopt them.

AM: What is like to wait for Council’s decision? Do you expect other entries into the race before the March 31 deadline?

Dessislava: I’m ready for everything – you never know. If there are alternative bids already in the process it’s quite possible that time allows for more candidates. It seems somewhat unlikely though, as most larger societies are already busy with their own projects.
It has gotten calmer now. There was a lot more to do in the months leading up to Kuala Lumpur Worlds. I was in constant contact with the other Chief Adjudicators and the OrgCom. Right now it’s almost surreal, as it always is when the bidding process draws to its conclusion. I’m excitedly waiting for the decision. It would be OK not to win, but I’d be thrilled if South Africa wins the bid.

AM: Thank you for your time!

Translation: Matthias Winkelmann



The Mittwochs-Feature: Every Wednesday at 10 am, the “Wednesday Feature” introduces an idea, a debate, a book or a person. If you want to kick off a debate, send us your proposal via email at team [at] achteminute [dot] de.

Dessislava Kirova won the WUDC 2014 in Chennai in the category English as a Second Language. She was a deputy Chief Adjudicator (CA) at the European Universities Debating Championships 2013, CA of the German nationals 2014 and Pan-African Debating Championships 2014. After being a designated CA for South Africa’s unsuccessful bid for WUDC 2016, she has returned as CA of the rainbow nation’s bid for Worlds 2017. She was president of the Berlin Debating Union from 2010-2012. 


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1 Kommentare zu “„Let’s not reinvent the wheel every year“ – Dessislava Kirova on South Africa’s bid for WUDC 2017”

  1. Julian Vaterrodt says:

    Hi ich wollte nur mal fragen ob solche Interviews auch noch für die anderen beiden BIDS gemacht werden. Wäre vlt. auch hier interessant einen Vergleich zu haben. 🙂

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