Critical population mass


Senior Member
Ireland, English

Can someone explain the part in Italics to me in plain English?

...key elements that are essential for successful scaling up have been identified and built in to the project....
These include:
Ensuring a critical population mass in the pilot phase ensuring systemic support for the scaling up process.

Is this a reference to a control group?

  • whatonearth

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Broadly speaking it seems to mean:

    "To make sure we build up a large amount of support in the pilot/first stage (of the process), so that there is widespread support for the expansion/scaling-up process"

    A prime example of overly-complicated and ever-so-slightly illogical 'management speak'! :) Hope that helps!


    Senior Member
    Just in case you didn't get this...
    critical population mass is a metaphor. It alludes to the atomic bomb which is supposed to reach a certain critical mass in order to explode. (or so I have understood, I'm not an expert in A-bombs :))


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Ensuring a critical population mass in the pilot phase ensuring systemic support for the scaling up process.

    Pleugghh - what a really horrible sentence (or part of sentence).
    Why? (I'll pick at the most offensive bits:) )
    There are two ensurings.
    The pseudo-precise term "critical population mass" is completely undefined (we guess).
    Systemic support - what is that?

    It's exactly the kind of thing that is written by consultants in project proposals:D


    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    "Critical mass" is when an increase in quantity becomes enough to make a qualitative change. LV4-26 is right about the origin of the term.

    A bus is stalled on a busy highway and needs to be pushed to the side of the road, but tow vehicles can't get near it because of gridlock. A bunch of guys get out of their cars and start trying to push the bus, using muscle power. They get nowhere, but a number of other people join the effort-- they understand that if enough people push, the bus can be moved.

    Fourteen people are straining to move the bus, a fifteenth adds his efforts, and the bus begins to move. That one person, combined with the others, made the difference. It turns out in this case that "critical population mass" for moving that bus was 15 people.

    I agree with panjandrum and whatonearth that the sentence is poorly written.
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