Research: Impact of the Gaisce Award Programme

‘It made you feel you had self-worth’

Does Gaisce – The President’s Award act as catalyst in the enhancement of the psychological attributes of: hope, self-efficacy, self-esteem, happiness, and psychological well-being in its participants?


Dr Niamh Clarke MacMahon
Health Service Executive — Longford / Westmeath, Dublin-Mid-Leinster
School of Psychology, University College Dublin

Dr Gary O’Reilly
School of Psychology, University College Dublin

This is the first scientific research undertaken in Gaisce’s 30-year existence to investigate the effects of taking part in the programme on its participants. This research report demonstrates that participation in Gaisce leads to significantly enhanced mental health and well-being of young people.

Dr. Niamh Clarke Mac Mahon and Dr. Gary O’Reilly from the UCD School of Psychology published their findings from three years of scientific research with in excess of 600 young people aged between 15 and 25 years across Ireland. The research investigated the psychological attributes of young people at the beginning and end of their participation in the Gaisce programme, and compared them with those of young people who did not take part in the programme.

The Gaisce Bronze Award participants who, prior to participation scored in the lowest quartile of the survey, showed the most significant increase in levels of hope, self-efficacy, self-esteem, happiness and psychological well-being following the programme.

In particular, the research found that those with greater psychological needs benefitted most from participation. This finding has positive clinical implications for the psychological health of the nation’s young people, particularly those most in need of opportunity and inspiration. The researchers have recommended that consideration should be given to ensuring that all young Irish people are afforded an opportunity to participate in programmes, such as Gaisce.

Speaking about the research, John Concannon, Past Chair of Gaisce’s Council said, “Young people in today’s society face enormous pressure in their every day lives. Now we are reassured that young people emerge more hopeful of the future, more confident and self-assured and better able to build positive relationships with friends and family as a result of taking part in Gaisce’s programme.”

Coinciding with the launch of the research findings, Yvonne McKenna, past CEO, said “Today marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Gaisce – The President’s Award. As we celebrate our 30th year in operation, we look forward to expanding the reach and impact of the Gaisce programme. The research published today highlights how Gaisce, with the support of our 1,500 volunteer President Award Leaders, can help young people across Ireland to dream big and realise their potential. Our aim is to ensure that every young person in Ireland has access to Gaisce – The President’s Award.”

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