Bob McKinnon is a writer, designer, podcast host, children’s author and teacher. What unites all of his work is the desire to help others move up in life – just as others have helped him.

As a writer, he is the author of the Moving Up Mondays Substack newsletter and two books — the New York Times bestseller Three Little Engines is a  modern retelling of the beloved The Little Engine That Could story,  Actions Speak Loudest: Keeping Our Promise for A Better World is a collection of essays featuring contributions from President Jimmy Carter, Queen Noor of Jordan, Rachael Ray, Dave Eggers, Mia Hamm, Jeffrey Sachs, and Geoffrey Canada among many others.

Bob’s latest children’s book, America’s Dreaming has just been published by Penguin Random House in June 2024.

His writing and work has been featured in The New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning, Esquire, Parents, The Boston Globe, PBS, NPR, Fast Company, and The Huffington Post among other outlets.

Bob is also the founder of the non-profit organization, The Moving Up Media Lab, whose mission is to inspire people to reflect on who and what has contributed to where they are today. Their first initiative “Your American Dream Score”, created with support from the Ford Foundation, helped almost a million people discover what factors may have helped or hindered their own efforts in life and is now the basis of curriculum developed by PBS Learning. In late 2020, they launched the  award-winning NPR podcast, Attribution with Bob McKinnon, about success and gratitude.  Guests have included Deepak Chopra,  Joy Oladokun, Nicholas Kristof, Daryl McDaniels of Run DMC, Master Chef Aaron Sanchez and poker champion and author, Maria Konnikova among others.   

He has also produced and hosted a series of NPR special programs on subjects ranging from educational inequity, disability and social isolation.  His most recent special was a retrospective on the 50th anniversary of The Piano Man, featuring an interview with Billy Joel.

Through his consultancy, GALEWiLL Design, Mr. McKinnon has led teams that have redesigned the food stamp program for the state of California, inspired children to become more physically active by finding their VERB for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and created new ways for youth to stay above the influence for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Working on issues ranging from childhood obesity to criminal justice to climate change, he has  partnered with leading social change organizations such as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The International Olympic Committee, Communities in Schools, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sesame Workshop, and the Vera Institute of Justice – among many others – to help millions overcome obstacles on their way to a healthier and happier life. 

Finally, he is an adjunct professor at both the Parsons School of Design and the Colin Powell School of Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York, where they have just launched  The Social Mobility Lab aimed to accelerate and expand opportunities for both students and young people across the country. 

He lives in the New York City area with his wife and three daughters.

Speech topics

"I think we can."

While the Little Engine that Could asked children to believe in themselves, (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”), McKinnon’s new bestselling book, Three Little Engines, asks us to believe in AND help each other (“I think we can, I think we can.)


In this talk, McKinnon shares lessons, grounded in social science, that we can all take from this simple tale. From the power that comes when we reflect on our own journeys to how appreciating the different challenges other's face can inspire us to work together to get them “over the mountain” as well. 


Watch this segment from CBS Sunday Morning to learn more.

How did you end up here?

Can asking one simple question change the way we forever see our world? 

McKinnon takes you on his moving personal journey out of poverty to discover the surprising factors that influence who we become and the psychology behind how we see our own life. During this talk, you’ll be given the opportunity to find Your American Dream Score and reflect on the members of your own Dream Team who made your journey in life possible. 

The Secrets Of Our Success

The American Dream tells us that anyone who comes here can succeed if they just work hard enough. Yet while hard work can make the dream possible, it doesn’t always mean it’s probable. Learn what a growing body of evidence is revealing about why some people “make it” while others don’t. McKinnon’s surprising findings and stories will leave you rethinking what it takes to make our dreams come true.

Keeping Our Promise for a Better World

Every generation makes a commitment to see its children lead better lives than they have and to leave the world a better place than they had inherited. Yet today’s issues are combining to create the first generation of children expected to lead shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives than their parents. So how do we get people to engage in creating a better world? In this talk, Bob will share inspiring stories and lessons learned from his experience collaborating with well known change makers like Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter as well as everyday heroes who “put their hands in the muck and mire to create something beautiful – a better outcome.”


Dig deep into your staff or team’s make-up with The American Dream Score. This research-driven assessment was designed by The Moving Up Media Lab and funded by the Ford Foundation and has already been used by more than 565,000 individuals. The brief tool examines the many people, experiences, systems, and institutions that have helped—or hindered—our path to where we are today. In this workshop, we will use these reflections to jump-start honest discussions about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives and our work. 

Half-day & long-term programs available to help your team(s) understand and work with:

• Personal histories and the key experiences, influences and moments that have brought us where we are today

• The many facilitators and obstacles that factor into how we relate to our environment and how we work toward our goals

• Tools for recognizing the effects of past experiences on both one’s own and others reactions to present circumstance

• Methods for interacting skillfully and productively across diverse backgrounds

• Strategies for capitalizing on personal and group understanding to improve productivity and outcomes

Customizable program design around the assessment allows for targeted outcomes aligned to your organizational challenges, values or goals. Some possibilities include:

• Increased understanding of diversity within the team

• Better teamwork around obstacles and challenges

• Deeper appreciation for value and experiences of team and stakeholders

• Enhanced individual capacity to identify areas for growth and improvement

• Insight into recruitment/restructuring for a more diverse staff reflecting or different experiences, skill-sets, and attitudes.


Three Little Engines

A gorgeously illustrated, modern retelling of the classic The Little Engine That Could, sharing the timely message that everyone's journey is different, and that sometimes, success comes from a helping hand

America's Dreaming

From New York Times bestselling author Bob McKinnon comes a story about seeking inspiration from our past to become our best selves in the future.

Actions Speak Loudest: Keeping Our Promise for a Better World 

A collection of photos, one-thousand word essays, and calls to action on the compelling issues of our day, to leave the world a better place for the next generation.


Why do some people make it, while others don’t? How do the facts of our lives differ from our perception of it? And how does our psychology shape how we view ourselves and others?

Attribution, a podcast from Bob McKinnon & The Moving Up Media Lab, asks people from all walks of life to reflect on who and what has contributed to where they ended up. Each episode encourages viewers to feel a little more inspired, grateful, or supported than when you first hit play.


Moving Up Mondays

Monday morning reflections about life. Readers tell me it’s a great way to start their week, leaving them a little more inspired, grateful and supported. Which makes me feel - well - a little more inspired, grateful and supported. SUBSCRIBE HERE.

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