From decentralized banking systems to digital community currencies, the way humans perceive and use money is changing1,2,3, thus creating novel opportunities for solving important economic and social problems. Here, we study Sardex, a fast-growing community currency in Sardinia (involving 1,477 businesses arrayed in a network with 48,170 transactions) using network analysis to shed light on its operation. Based on our experience with its day-to-day operations, we propose performance metrics tailored for Sardex but also to similar economic systems, introduce criteria for identifying prominent economic actors and investigate the interplay between network structure and economic robustness. Leveraging new methods for quantifying network ‘cyclic density’ and ‘k-cycle centrality,’ we show that geodesic transaction cycles, where money flows in a circle through the network, are prevalent and that certain nodes have a pivotal role in them. We analyse the transactions within cycles and find that the economic turnover of the involved firms is higher, and that excessive currency and debt accumulations are lower. We also measure a similar, but secondary, effect for nodes and edges that serve as intermediaries to many transactions. These metrics are strong indicators of the success of such mutual credit systems at individual and collective levels.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request, subject to approval by Sardex Spa and based on the confidentiality agreement of Sardex Spa with its clients.
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We thank D. G. Alvarez, F. Fu, J. Horton and A. Oswald for helpful comments. Support for this research was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Star Family Foundation. Also, G.I. acknowledges that this publication has emanated from research supported in part by a research grant from Science Foundation Ireland under grant 16/IA/4610; and E.M.A. acknowledges the support by the National Science Foundation under grant IIS-1409177 and by the Office of Naval Research under grants YIP N00014-14-1-0485 and N00014-17-1-2131 to E.M.A. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.