Keywords: Sociology of Economics; Financial Institutions and Services; Political Economy.
The remarkable growth of Sardex as a local currency throughout the island of Sardinia over the past 5 years motivated an in-depth look at its starting assumptions, design and operational principles, and local context. The paper looks at Sardex as a social innovation start-up, a complementary currency, a mutual credit system, and a socio-economic «circuit». The analysis relies on interviews of circuit members and its founders. The main findings are that trust was and continues to be fundamentally important for the creation and operation of the mutual credit system, and that Sardex encompasses both economic and social value(s) in a process of re-embedding of the economy. Sardex configured itself as a crucial mediator of economic exchanges and became a valuable actor acting as an institution at the regional level. These properties make it an ideal space for experimentation in socio-economic innovation that can be characterized as a «laboratory for multi-level governance».