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Who is on Your Dream Team?

Who is on Your Dream Team?

Take the time to name those people who helped you get to where you are today. To help, we’ll give you twenty-one quick prompts – about the family, friends, influences, places, work colleagues and other sources of inspiration that made your life possible.

At the end, you’ll get a wonderful visualization of all the people who contributed to who you are today AND the opportunity to share it with them as a way of saying thanks.

This will take around ten minutes but don’t worry if you forget someone or need more time, you can always save where you are and update it later. Also, this is your dream team, not ours, so this data won’t be shared by anyone for any reason, period.
If you’d prefer to do this with pencil and paper, just download the prompts and blank form here.

What is Your American Dream Score

What is Your American Dream Score?

Spend five minutes taking this quiz, and you’ll find out what factors were working in your favor and what you had to overcome to get where you are today. At the end, you’ll receive an overall score and a personalized summary of the results (and probably a big dose of pride and gratitude).

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The Difference Between a System and an Ideal

Recently, New York City announced the results of their Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). This aptitude test is taken by eighth grade students and serves as the sole factor for admission to the most selective high schools in the city.

While black and Latino students make up 66% of all NYC students, they received only 10% of these coveted slots.

Hold that thought.

Meritocracy is defined as “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.”

Are we to believe that any one group of thirteen-year-old children is that disproportionately less talented than another to justify such as discrepancy as described above?

The term meritocracy was originally coined in the 1958 satirical essay by the sociologist, Michael Young. You read that right, satire.

The essay was a dystopian tale set in 2033, where a historian now living in a so called meritocracy looked back in time to review how they got there

Young’s historian proved also to be a wise futurist, when he recognized the limits of meritocracy. His forecast included a future full of simplistic judgment, saying for example — “the eminent know that success is a just reward for their own capacity, their own efforts and in which the lower orders know that they have failed every chance they were given.” 

He also envisioned a day where merit based systems would ironically lead to the hoarding of advantages amongst those who had worked their way to the top, writing that “nearly all parents are going to try to gain unfair advantages for their offspring.”

We conflate systems with ideals. It is the difference between “this is how things work” and ‘this is how things should work.” We no more live in a true meritocratic system than we live in a true democracy.  As Young foretold, rules get re-written by those at the top who, perhaps naturally, wish to remain there. 

It is the ideal of a meritocracy that we should constantly be striving to live by. 

Ultimately this means ensuring that everyone plays by the same rules and where the playing field is created level for all. 

But it must first start by being honest enough to admit when we’ve gained favor through other means AND recognizing when certain meritocratic practices (such as the test mentioned above) are not as much about merit as we would like to think they are. 

Thanks for reading the latest from Moving Up.


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About Us

Moving Up is an initiative based on the writing of Bob McKinnon. Motivated to understand his own journey out of poverty and inspired by his career working with nonprofits and foundations, Bob began exploring the science behind why some people make it and others don’t – and how we make sense of our life outcome either way.

His journey was captured in his recent TEDx talk: How Did I End Up Here and in the interactive book, Moving Up: The Truth About Getting Ahead in America that takes you through the various factors the impact where we end up in life. It features compelling personal narratives, relevant social science, and documented mobility research and best practices

Bob is the author of the Moving Up Mondays blog that reaches thousands of readers each week and the book Actions Speak Loudest: Keeping Our Promise for A Better World. A contributor to Fast Company, Thrive Global, Medium and the Huffington Post, he is also an adjunct professor at the Parsons School of Design. Among his courses taught is Redesigning the American Dream.

In the spirit of Moving Up, this is Bob’s alternative bio: “Bob McKinnon is the son of Daytona Roth, a former bartender who raised three children largely by herself in various row houses in Chelsea, Massachusetts and trailers in rural Pennsylvania. He is a proud former recipient of food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, Pell grants, student loans and numerous other government benefits. His educational and professional success would not be possible without the kindness and efforts of countless teachers, mentors, social workers, friends, family, non-profit workers, and individuals – many of whom will never know their impact on his life.

Through his writing and work, he hopes to pay tribute and thanks to all those who have helped him and others move up in life.


The Moving Up Media Lab


To advance this work, Bob founded the Moving Up Media Lab, a non-profit whose mission is to inspire Americans to reflect on who and what has contributed to where they end up in life.

Each year the Lab focuses on developing 1-2 projects that are designed to help people reflect on their own journeys and gain a deeper appreciation for what has helped or hindered their efforts along the way. Research shows that by providing people with tools to reflect on their own life journey, they can become both more supportive and helpful towards others.

Our Projects:

The Invisible Dream: A year-long research project done in conjunction with Public Agenda, asking Americans to share their attitudes about what the American Dream is and what it takes to achieve it. Results and an infographic series were launched at a National Press Club event which featured Fox News political analyst Juan Williams, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post and Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream?

Your American Dream Score: An interactive calculator that allows people to see what factors have helped or hindered their own efforts to move up in life. Over 600,0000 people have already found their score to date and it is now the basis for curriculum created by PBS Learning and diversity training programs. It was recognized by Fast Company as a finalist for its World Changing Ideas issue.

My Dream Team: A simple online tool for people to name and thank the people, places and organizations that provided the social capital to help them get to where they are today. In the end, each person receives a beautiful, shareable visualization of their Dream Team comprised of all the people, places and groups that made their journey possible


Thank You:

Each piece of content we create is the result of a highly collaborative effort. Without their involvement none of this work would be possible.

The foundation is the research relationships with scholars, universities and organizations that study the issues and attitudes surrounding mobility. They include:

  • Brookings Institution, Century Foundation, Cornell University, Columbia University, Harvard University, The New School University, Public Agenda, Northwestern University, Penn State University, Stanford University, University of California-Irvine

Our inspiration is drawn from our relationships with those working to help lift themselves or others move up in life, including organizations such as:

  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Chasing the Dream, Children’s Health Fund, Family Independence Initiative, Foundation for the Carolinas,The Ford Foundation, KIPP, LIFT Communities, Opportunity Insights, Opportunity Nation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Yonkers Partners in Education

Media organizations provide the platforms necessary for sharing our work.

  • PBS, Facebook, Fast Company, New York Times, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, and Yahoo among others outlets have featured our work.

Each project is funded through a combination of individual donations and grants from:

  • The Ford Foundation, The Tides Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Carolina, The Foundation for the Carolinas and Photowings

Throughout the development of this work, we have benefited greatly from the guidance and wisdom of many individuals whose scholarship and commitment to helping others move up is unparalleled. They include:

  • Raj Chetty, Brian Collier, Seth Godin, Paul Piff, Shai Davidai, Fiona Guthrie, Crysta Jentile, Kellie-Castruita-Specter, Geraldine Moriba, Eugenia Harvey, Will Platt-Higgins, Vicki Zubovic, and Anne Adriance among many others.

Finally, the digital design and development of our tools and this site is made possible by our fantastic partners at Sol Design – led by Adam Rosenkoetter.