Mulgan obtained a First Class degree from Balliol College, Oxford and a Ph.D. in telecommunications from the University of Westminster. He was also a Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, trained as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka  and worked for a spell during the 1980s as a van driver for the "Labour-supporting collective of musicians and comedians known as Red Wedge", opting ultimately for a career in local government and academia in the UK and going on to become an influential writer on social and political issues in various newspapers and magazines in the 1990s including the Independent, Financial Times, Guardian, New Statesman and Marxism Today. He worked as a reporter for BBC television and radio and was made a CBE in 2005.
He has written a number of books including: Communication and Control:networks and the new economies of communication (1991), Politics in an Anti-Political Age (1994), Connexity (1997), Good and Bad Power: the Ideals and Betrayals of Government (Penguin 2006) and The Art of Public Strategy (2009). He has written numerous Demos reports and pamphlets. His current base, the Young Foundation, mainly works on social innovation - the design and launch of new social organisations, but also produces some publications, including recent ones on social innovation and the state of British society  He has lectured and advised governments around the world on policy and strategy - including China, Australia, the United States, Japan and Russia. He is profiled in two books - The New Alchemists (1999 by Charles Handy) and Visionaries (2001 by Jay Walljasper). He has been a trustee of the Design Council, the Work Foundation, Crime Concern, Involve and Political Quarterly, and a member of various commissions for bodies including the European Commission and the Academy of Medical Science.