Blockchain product leader, Mehran Hydary, blockchain strategist Ariana Fowler, blockchain lead Christina Lomazzo, UNICEF office of innovation co-founder Chris Fabian, and UNICEF France web marketing Hubert Chaminade prepare to announced the UNICEF
When Christina Lomazzo was a teenager, she used to hop back and forth across the U.S. Canada border for fun. A native of Ontario, with a father born in Italy, Lomazzo grew up speaking French, English, and Italian, and when things were slow in her home town she and her friends would pile into a black SUV, cross the Detroit River to the United States and watch all-star Rasheed Wallace and the Detroit Pistons. Instead of buying each other presents when she was a kid, Lomazzo’s family took trips around the world.
Now the 28-year-old former project coordinator for the Bank of Canada and co-founder of Deloitte’s government blockchain practice is leveraging her international background at the United Nations, where in September 2018 she was hired as the United Nations Children’s Fund’s first head of blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, that simplifies transactions across borders. After 14 months’ work at the imposing United Nations Plaza in New York, Lomazzo and her international team, today announced the UNICEF Crypto Fund, a prototype that lets the agency accept Bitcoin and ether donations and invest them directly into blockchain startups
In addition to investing cryptocurrency into early stage, open-source companies working with children, the fund represents the first time any UN agency, much less one that generated $6.7 billion revenue last year, will be able to accept Bitcoin and ethereum donations. The prototype launched today with a donation of 1 Bitcoin and 10,000 ether from the Switzerland-based Ethereum Foundation has already signed agreements with agencies from four nations, UNICEF USA, UNICEF France, UNICEF Australia, and UNICEF New Zealand to start accepting cryptocurrency donations immediately.
As the United Nations, which last year received $15 billion in donations, kicks off a new phase of development where it sees itself as much a financial innovator as a dispenser of aid, the ability to accept cryptocurrency donations and track exactly how they were spent could pave the way for a new, more transparent agency, leading to more donations than ever before.
“We don’t see the Crypto Fund so much as being crypto,” says Lomazzo, speaking from the UNICEF office of innovation in New York. “What we really see it as is being ready for a digital future. We’re going to need to be ready to deal with digital assets whether that be Bitcoin, or ether, or some other government-backed digital currency. It could be any of those, but this is really helping us build up the muscles to understand how to live or how to on-board digital assets.”
Lomazzo was born in April 1991 in Windsor, Ontario, just a short drive from where she grew up in the town of Amherstburg, and an even shorter drive to the Piston’s former home stadium. The child of a computer engineer father and a worker advocate mother, Lomazzo was raised by her Italian grandmother who never learned English.
With a global sense of culture deep in her DNA, Lomazzo enrolled at the University of Ottowa in 2009 where she studied in Italy and Australia before earning a bachelor’s degree in international business. Shortly after graduating she was first exposed to Bitcoin while working as a project coordinator at Canada’s central bank. By 2016, when she earned two master’s degrees from Canada’s Global Alliance in Management Education and Western University in international management and international business respectively, she had caught the Bitcoin bug, going onto write one of the first masters’ theses on cryptocurrency, “How Banks Respond to Disruptive Innovation: Blockchain as a Case Study,” a comparison of how ten giant banks were exploring blockchain.
Before Lomazzo even graduated, in December 2015, at around the same time UNICEF was starting to explore blockchain, she was hired by Deloitte, in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, across the street from the Parliament building. At the time, the office’s blockchain work was still a part of the emerging tech division, but she and innovation lead Kevin Armstrong spun-off blockchain into its own focus, specializing in helping local, provincial and state agencies use the technology around the world.
In February 2016, at around the same time her future colleagues at the United Nations finished their first blockchain prototype, Lomazzo entered a “super seedy,” now-closed, bar in Toronto called the Clocktower Brew Pub and began the process of documenting how Bitcoin was evolving. She photographed a Bitcoin ATM “behind a black curtain so you felt like you were doing something wrong,”she says, and took what ended up being the first of four photos of the ATM, showing a price of $551 CAD, compared to $10,920 today, a 1,181% increase.