Francis Calpotura – INNOVATOR

Recasting remittances and starting a global movement.

By Andre Banks Jan 15, 2007

TIGRA, the brainchild of veteran organizer Francis Calpotura and started in late 2004, is a project that promotes financial justice through the economic power of immigrants–those who send billions of dollars to families they’ve left behind in their countries of origin. According to World Bank estimates, immigrants in the United States sent home nearly $100 billion in 2005. Most used the services of a money transfer agency and were charged 8 to 15 percent in fees and commissions, resulting in billions of lost income for low-income workers and their families.

"The companies," Calpotura exclaims, "have turned deep human affection for family and community into immense profit margins."

In partnership with community and ethnic associations, TIGRA is organizing Million Dollar Clubs in immigrant neighborhoods (networked as an association of remitters transnationally) that can advocate for "transnational community benefits agreements" with industry leaders to support community reinvestment strategies.

Remittances have become the fastest-growing revenue source for many developing countries, outpacing income generated from oil (Mexico), coffee (El Salvador and Bolivia) and textiles (Philippines and India). "Money from the diaspora has become the single most important source of reducing poverty in the Global South," he says.

"But it’s plain wrong to place the burden of poverty reduction on the backs of those who were displaced by grinding poverty in the first place, because the policies and practices by governments and corporations that created these conditions continue to be in place."

The end goal: challenge the dominance of the international financial institutions by leveraging the wealth of low-income immigrants and their families to force reinvestment in communities decimated by corporate globalization.

A big idea, indeed.

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