A crash course in changing the world.
I happened to be in Bangalore, India, at Upbeat when the call came. I had been talking to Eureka. No crisis around, Thank God. My body charged mobile beeped. CXP. Damn. It was Citizen X.
Cipher, get your ass out there to cover this new currency, ok?
What? By who?
The social innovator and entepreneur Dr. A.V. Koshy, a Ph.D in English literature, who had started his Help for Autism group after being inspired by participating in Urgent Evoke, ten years ago . It was not a new idea for him, but the game gave him the final push he needed. A question that bothers me is about whether his outfit is in anyway different or original.There are so many like them around now, you know.
What's he up to now?
He has started the idea of autistic children earning and shopping using alternate currency - it's a very interesting concept. Go in there and find out what's happening.
Damn. Sorry, Eureka. I hate Citizen X.
Many hours later I got the story - it was worth it. I filed it as breaking news. Here it is.
Breaking news: Happiness is worth it's weight in gold.
April 1, 2020 -18.00
Autistic people or autistic children are many in number these days. The savants among them, or the highly functional ones or the 'healed' or 'cured' miracles or the steadily improving ones apart, many of them are mainly dysfunctional. How can they earn in our society and how can they spend, save etc? Dr A. V. Koshy has come up with a startlingly innovative idea that can only be commended because I saw it in action. If you don't see it you won't believe it and you'll think that I'm fooling you on this April Fool's Day.
He has worked out a community credits idea that is unique. It works like this. First he ran a campaign with the help of every media about the needs of autistic people also to have some form of value, exchange and currency for earning, spending, saving, investing etc. He calls his project the Happiness and Good Will Fund. It works on the simplest of principles. Happiness, aided with and brought about by technology. For the programme's launch he chose first the children in Communication Deall, a local school that has only autistic children in it's care and took them to a nearby Reliance mall - a politically incorrect choice but chosen because if its proximity - that he had tied up with prior to this trip. They were allowed to roam freely through the aisles. All the customers had been supplied with a smile or laugh meter. A Happiness meter. It was a simple contraption, connected to the cheeks and when a customer smiled or laughed it glowed red and registered an amount in rupees or paise depending on the volume of happiness generated which was simply the time the smile or laugh was sustained. No negative emotions are recorded by the machine. The customers laughed as the children ran about and frolicked happily or were sad or created or tried to create mischief as all children would, under the watchful eyes of their teachers while the registers kept clicking. As each customer checked out the ledsmilometer was taken from him and the amount noted. A rupee was deducted on each amount for ensuring fair trade regarding smiles that the children may not have generated. By the end of an hour the children had made an amount of 86 rupees and forty paise. This is a very small amount but it is the beginning and it is the idea that is BIG. This was divided equally among them to take home. The parents, if also there, could exchange the amount for goods which, if bought from the same store, was given at a discount. Profit has to be made, you see. The teachers were entrusted with the rest of the money to ensure it would get to the parents who were not there.
The project has its flaws that need to be ironed out like the huge planning that needs to go into even such a small outing beforehand, but it was amazing to witness as a start up. It can be improved and will become a powerful aid for the future of these people. While the idea of selling smiles is cheap and commercial , the idea of paying for the smiles of and the happiness generated by the differently abled struck me as a brilliant one and the mash up with technology was doubly so. Dr Koshy's Autism for Help is decidedly not just a pioneer in autism farms in India but still different and original after ten years, because of this bold move to bring in an alternate currency into the life of autistic peoples that may even be applied to all differently abled people in the wh*** world eventually.