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Gabi Kent

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a Lecturer in Knowledge Exchange in the School of Social Sciences and Global Studies (SSGS) and a member of the OU Ireland Time to Think oral history archive project team. This unique archive documents OU study in British and Irish prisons during the conflict in and about Northern Ireland. 

From 2015 to 2019 I was a Lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology in SSGS. Prior to this I worked part time with the Open University on the ESRC funded Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK (PSE UK) project www.poverty.ac.uk. As community engagement lead on this project, I devised and ran a three-year community action research and digital storytelling collaboration between The Open University, Queens University, Community Foundation for Norhtern Ireland and marginalised communities in Northern Ireland documenting the impact and harms of UK austerity policy. 

My professional background is as a consultant, multi-media producer and academic researcher working on projects in the field of human rights, peacebuilding and social change. I have an MSc in Human Rights from LSE (2008-2009), specialising in transitional justice in the aftermath of violent conflict and did my thesis on a regional grassroots justice process in the Balkans. Between 2010 and 2013 I worked as a freelance consultant with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)  in Geneva, on peacebuilding issues and long-term policy solutions for those who are forcibly displaced by conflict.

As a media producer/director for over 15 years, I have also made numerous broadcast documentaries for BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery and more recently, educational and advocacy films for NGOs and human rights organization such as  The Elders and the Anti Trafficking Alliance. I continue to maintain my expertise in and passion for film making and storytelling, on both academic and non academic projects.

Research interests

I am currently researching Loyalist and Republican perspectives on the role of education in social, political and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland. My PhD, Transformation Tales explores how new ways of thinking are fostered within and between conflicted parties in divided societies leading to shared solutions.

More generally, my research concerns grassroots and community-led conflict transformation, transitional justice and peacebuilding processes. A common theme in my academic research and my professional media work, is the role of digital media and storytelling in individual and collective empowerment and as a transformative tool for political and social change.

Teaching interests

As a module team member on the Masters in Crime and Global Justice (DD804), I authored chapters on the politics of truth, state crimes and harms and on global justice responses in the aftermath of genocide and mass atrocities. I also was a core member of the module team producing the new Criminology Undergraduate module (DD105), authored a chapter on deconstructing political crime and was a co-editor on Book 2 Introduction to Criminology.

As a practitioner I enjoy co-developing digital media and storytelling techniques and collaborating  with communities on action research and knowledge exchange projects.

Impact and engagement

Since 2016, I have been working with colleagues from The Open University in Ireland on Time to ThinkTime to Think is a unique oral history archive and ongoing collaboration between The Open University and people who participated in the Time to Think archive. This includes Loyalist and Republican ex-prisoners, OU tutors and office staff and prison staff and governors involed in OU study in British and Irish prisons during the years of conflict (1972-2000).  The overarching purpose of Time to Think is to promote teaching, research, scholarship and academic/community knowledge exchange on the role of higher education in conflict related contexts to address local and global challenges

For the Poverty and Social Exclusion UK (PSEUK) in the UK project (2011-2013) I produced short films with families across the UK on the lived experience of poverty. I also worked with academics and low income communities in Northern Ireland developing a purposeful collective storytelling methodology to share community research findings on the impact of austerity with policy makers and the wider public. This included using online media, public screenings, briefings and presentations politicians and policy makers in Stormont. More recently, I was part of a small OU/FASS  team assisting the NGO Community Foundation in Milton Keynes on producing their  Vital Signs report documenting local strengths and challenges such as health, wellbeing and inequality . 

Throughout my career I have pushed the boundaries between research, impact and engagement and I see two way knowledge sharing as a core responsibility when undertaking any academic research.

ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS

Kent, G (2016) Shattering the silence: The power of ‘Purposeful storytelling’ in challenging social security discourses of blame and shame in Northern Ireland. Critical Social Policy,Vol 36: 124-141, Sage

Kent, G (2013) PSE Methods Working Paper (25): Community Engagement in Challenging times, Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK, Available at: http://www.poverty.ac.uk/pse-research/pse-uk/methods-development

BRIEFINGS, REPORTS AND POLICY DOCUMENTS

Kent G (2014) UNHCR Reintegration Handbook (Online Solutions toolkit: Resources for practitioner working on solutions for displaced persons), UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Available at http://www.solutionstoolkit.org/

Kent G, (2014) The Hard Times Reports 1-3 (The High Cost of Living; Feeling the Strain; Youth Prespectives) . Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, Policy Briefing series presenting findings of the Communities in Action community research collaboration. Available at: http://www.poverty.ac.uk/community/northern-ireland/cia/hard-times

Kent G and Wilkins, G (2014) The Hard Times Reports (4) Action research as a community tool, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, CFNI. 

Kent G, (2013) ‘We are sitting with the big people now” Final report on the PSE’s pilot community engagement project in Northern Ireland (March 2012 - August 2013), Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK (PSE UK)

Kent, G (2011), UNHCR: The Benefits of Belonging: local integration options and opportunities for host countries, host communities and refugees. UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/4e3276e26.html

Kent, G (2010), UNHCR Activities Through a Peacebuilding Lens (Internal document: Preliminary review), OSTS, UN High Commission for Refugees 

SELECTED CONFERENCES AND PRESENTATIONS

Books that Bend Bars: Panel discussion with former political prisoners and OU students on the books that inspired change for the Imagine Festival, Belfast, March 2018

Pilot paper: Lessons from Maze/Long Kesh: Education as a strategy of resistance and a tool for conflict transformation amongst political prisoners in Northern Ireland (1972-2000) European Group, Lesvos, July 2017

Community Engagement in Challenging Times: How can poverty related research be made more meaningful for low income communities 3rd Peter Townsend Memorial Conference: Poverty and Social exclusion in the UK: Presentation on Community engagement in challenging times http://www.poverty.ac.uk/take-part/events/final-conference  (July 2014)

Community Engagement for challenging times, Social Policy Association (SPA) Annual Conference (July, 2013)

Reconciliation through politics. European Commission (EC) Brussels, conference on transitional justice in the Western Balkans: Paper and presentation based on my MSc Thesis (Brussels, 2009) 

Publications

Pioneers and Politics: Open University Journeys in British and Irish prisons in Long Kesh during the years of conflict 1972-1975 (2019-12-18)
O'Sullivan, Philip and Kent, Gabi
In: Earle, Rod and Mehigan, James eds. Degrees of Freedom: Prison Education at the Open University (pp. 33-46)
ISBN : 9781447353072 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol