The starfish in our logo reminds us why we do this work. 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.