Following a recent IAP2 Northern California chapter meeting, I came across this definition of public participation:

What is Public Participation?

Public participation is the process by which an organization consults with interested or affected individuals, organizations, and government entities before making a decision. Public participation is two-way communication and collaborative problem solving with the goal of achieving better and more acceptable decisions. Public participation prevents or minimizes disputes by creating a process for resolving issues before they become polarized. Other terms sometimes used are “public involvement,” “community involvement,” or “stakeholder involvement.”

We are currently working on our first product, a web-based software application for problem solving and decision making in large groups. To some degree, what we have in mind is a public participation engine (at least for those parts of an engagement project that can feasibly be run online).