Reciprocal Maieutic Approach

Throughout his whole life, Danilo Dolci tried to find out those connections and possible communications in order to release that creativity hidden in each person and he called this research “maieutic”, taking this term from the philosophical structures, and integrating it in a social, educational and civil practice. During his life, Danilo Dolci worked closely to the people and to the disadvantaged and oppressed groups of the western Sicily in order to study the possible ways of change and the potential for a democratic social redemption.

His methodological approach constitutes an important characteristic of the social and educational Danilo Dolci work: rather than spreading ready-made truths, he believes that no real change can abstract from the involvement and the direct participation of the people concerned. As a result he starts from the belief that in Sicily, as in the rest of the world, the resources for the change are present and should be searched and evoked in the people themselves. In this sense, Danilo Dolci considers the educational and maieutical commitment as a necessary element in order to create a more opened and responsible civil society.

The RMA is a popular dialectic methodology of research and self-analysis tested by Danilo Dolci starting from the 50s and by the present Centre for the Creative Development within the educational and sociological field nowadays. This approach promotes a sense of responsibility in the communities and individuals and can be defined as a “collective exploration process that considers individuals’ experience and intuition as a reference point” (Dolci, 1996). The RMA was developed by Danilo Dolci from the concept of Socrates’ maieutic. It derives from the ancient greek “μαιευτικός” that literally stands for the midwife art: each educational act is like giving birth to all the inside potentials of the individual that wants to learn, as a mother wishes her baby is born from her womb. Socrates’ maieutic compares the philosopher to the “midwife of knowledge” that doesn’t fill the student mind with a priori information, but helps him bring his knowledge to light, using the dialogue as a dialectical tool. What makes the difference between these two concepts is the fact that Socrates’ maieutic is unidirectional, whereas Danilo Dolci thinks knowledge can arise from experience and its sharing, and then requires reciprocity in communication.

Danilo Dolci’s RMA, as a result, is based on the sharing process of answering, exploring and creating. As the name itself recalls, the RMA is a “reciprocal” process between at least two people and it normally develops within a group, with a person that starts asking some questions and other people that search for the answers together and make other close examinations. In an intense dialogue that stands for a new way of education based on increasing individuals’ and group’s creativity, the maieutical process concentrates on the capacity of people potential to discover their vital interests and freely express their own reflections basing both on their experiences and their personal discovers and on the choral verification of the proposals.

The maieutic workshop needs everybody to question and uncover themselves in front of the others, and with the others to start a common research path of analysis, testing and creative co-education.