The starfish in our logo reminds us why we do this work, and its meaning is twofold.
- A common theme amongst people who want to make a difference in the world is that we have to start somewhere, and if we each took the time to reach out and help, the world would be a better place. This thought process is perfectly encapsulated in the Starfish Parable. It goes a little something like this.
One day, a girl was walking on a beach when she was struck by a sight she had never seen before. A terrible storm had churned the night before and left thousands of starfish washed ashore, stranded on the beach in front of her for miles. As she walked, she began to toss the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. She set about her task enthusiastically, not noticing that an old man had begun watching her with a puzzled look on his face.
“What are you doing?” the old man asked.
“I’m saving these starfish.” She said, tossing in one starfish and setting out for the next.
The old man shook his head and laughed. “Thousands of starfish are on this beach. What difference can you make?”
The girl turned toward the ocean, gently tossing another starfish into the water. “I made a difference to that one!”
The old man joined her, calling over a crowd of people and they all worked together to save the stranded starfish.
The parable of the starfish is a story of perseverance, hope, and collective action in the face of a major challenge. What is missing from this parable is the understanding that the problem may be more complex than it first appears. When looking at a beach covered in washed-up starfish, the sense of urgency can be overpowering. However, it’s still important to stop and ask questions like: “Why are the starfish washing up on the beach? If we throw them back, will they simply wash up again? Have other beaches had similar issues? If yes, then how did they try to solve them?” These are some key questions that get to the roots of the problem, exploring the reasons why a “quick fix” may not actually be a sustainable fix. Maybe the idea of “everyone pitching in” to solve the problem looks very different from a crowd of people tossing starfish back into the sea. It might look more like various local agencies working together to create a response plan. Or it might look like community members launching a grassroots effort to change local environmental policy. Or maybe both!
Building on the parable of the starfish, Collective Liberty embodies the belief that we can and must harness the urgency to work together to eradicate human trafficking — it isn’t a problem that anyone can solve alone. And, most importantly, we can’t solve it without asking a lot of questions and looking deeply into the underlying systems that allow this problem to persist.
*Adapted from The Starthrower by Loren Eisley.
2. Starfish Leadership: “If you cut off a spider’s leg, it’s crippled; if you cut off its head, it dies. But if you cut off a starfish’s leg, it grows a new one, and the old leg can grow into an entirely new starfish.” From The Starfish and the Spider book by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom
We endeavor to connect, equip, and catalyze anti-trafficking actors. As an anti-human trafficking movement, we are strongest when our collective strengths are harnessed in collaboration, but we have the freedom to continue to innovate. Our strength as an anti-trafficking field comes in nuanced communities of practice across disparate organizations and sectors elevating their expertise to inform the entire field.
This can be in the form of social service providers specializing in supporting discrete victim populations. Or survivor-led groups leading from a place of lived experience and healing. Of law enforcement agencies who are focused on stopping trafficking behavior while making sure victims and survivors are supported by the criminal justice system, not penalized. Communities of financial institutions focused on catching money laundering and illicit financial activity of traffickers to proactively identify the behavior before it would otherwise have reached the attention of authorities.
While each of those is an immensely valuable community of practice within the broader anti-trafficking field, our strength comes from a starfish style of collaboration across those communities, where we all work together in our autonomous spaces to build a stronger, more cohesive anti-trafficking starfish.
Join our starfish as we work towards Collective Liberty.