Mike Morrison, one of Global Citizen’s newly-announced Champions of Change, doesn’t think activism has to make a big splash to be effective. In fact, he believes that starting small can often be the best way to have an impact.
“There are more aggressive forms of activism that work for some people, but I just think about how to have as few barriers as possible,” Morrison told Global Citizen. “I don’t know how to ask Justin Trudeau to give $25 million to end poverty, but I do know how to get a column in the paper explaining why it’s important.”
As an experienced host, podcaster, and writer, Morrison knows how to use the media — “in a good way,” he points out — to highlight stories that may otherwise fly under the radar. He learned quickly that his unique skills as a writer and avid social media user could come in handy when he organized his first rally.
In 2014, Morrison’s home province of Alberta attempted to pass Bill 10, which would give school boards the authority to ban Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs in schools. After tweeting about the importance of GSA clubs for LGBTQ+ students in Canada, Morrison decided to host a rally outside of the provincial government’s offices.
A mere 12 hours and several emails to the media later, he was joined by over 100 people, including celebrities and the press. The response forced the government to delay voting on Bill 10 so they could listen to constituents’ feedback, which ended up inspiring one of the most progressive GSA laws in Canada. The 2015 law required all schools in Alberta to establish GSA clubs if students requested them, as well as add the terms “sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, and gender expression” to the Alberta Bill of Rights, in order to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students.
“That whole moment was so natural and organic for me, and it was just as easy as talking about [an issue] online,” Morrison said.
Once he’d seen how something as small as tweeting about an impromptu rally could lead to monumental change, Morrison realized that he could be an activist in his own right. The world’s biggest issues — like climate change, gender equality, and world hunger — will require millions of dollars and global support to solve. But one person deciding to make a difference in their community can inspire others to take action, which is how we create impact globally.
“Being a part of Global Citizen is realizing it works when there are more people involved,” Morrison said. “To get there, you have to have your own little spinoffs in your local community.”
Over the years, Morrison has lent his voice to a number of local causes that only required a bit of his time. When Love, Simon was released in 2018, he started a crowdfunding campaign to rent out a theatre so more kids had the opportunity to see a queer love story on the big screen. During an election season that highlighted several LGBTQ+ issues, he and other organizers sent a few emails encouraging Calgary’s local drag performers to exercise their right to vote in full drag.
“Sometimes people see demonstrations and say, ‘That’s not for me,’ but there are different ways to [make an impact] that don’t involve demonstrations,” Morrison said. “I see myself more as a conduit.”
Morrison acknowledges that his form of activism may seem more passive than others, but it’s helped him understand the variety of ways that people can get involved with local issues. Another tool that helps him make an impact is social media.
“The reason why I really like social media is because as a gay, bald guy, there is no room for me in Canada as a host,” he said. “What social media does for people who look like me is allow the writing and personality to shine. It gives people who would be neglected by traditional media a voice to reach people.”
As one of Canada’s Champions of Change, Morrison wants to help Global Citizens find their voices so that they can make a difference in whatever way they want, whether it’s through raising awareness about the issues they care about online or buying donuts to encourage voting in local elections.
The world is full of challenges that require many people, resources, and years to address, which can make it seem like one person isn’t enough. But look to the community around you and you’ll find a number of issues that need just one person to get the ball rolling.
“It’s just about listening to your community,” Morrison said. “If you have a particular skill, use it. You don’t have to organize a giant rally, but you can help a group make posters or build a website. Just get involved.”