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Ms Gabi Kent

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Knowledge Exchange Lecturer
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Social Sciences & Global Studies
  • Social Policy & Criminology
  • gabi.kent

Professional biography

I am a Lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology and a member of the OU Ireland Time to Think oral history  project team. This unique archive documents OU study in British and Irish prisons during the conflict in and about Northern Ireland. 

Prior to joining SPC, I was a member of the ESRC funded Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK (PSE UK) project team 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, CFNI and marginalised communities in Northern Ireland documenting the impact and harms of UK austerity policy. 

My professional background is as a freelance consultant, multi-media producer and academic researcher working on projects in the field of human rights, social justice 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 made numerous broadcast documentaries for BBC, Channel 4 and Discovery and advocacy films for NGOs and human rights organization such as The Anti Trafficking Alliance and The Elders.  I continue to maintain my connections with media practice  by for example my work  as adviser and Associate Producer respectively on two highly commended feature length documentaries:  In the Shadow of War which looks at the long term legacies of conflict in the Balkans and Lost in Lebanon which examines the plight of Syrians exiled and caught in limbo in Lebanon. Both are made by the talented film makers, Sophia and Georgia Scott. I am also working on a long term documentary project about the legacy of activism.

Research interests

I am currently researching Loyalist and Republican perspectives on the role of education in social, political and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland for my PhD. This research is linked to my work with colleagues from Open University Ireland (OUI) on their unique oral history archive documenting OUI's work in prisons during the conflict (1972-2000).

More generally, my research concerns grassroots-led responses to social and structural violence such as conflict transformation, transitional justice and peacebuilding.  My research  is primarily situated in post-conflict  and transitional contexts, from my MSc looking at grassroots-led transitional justice processes in the Balkans to community based peacebuilding and peaceful co-existence approaches through my work with UNHCR. Previous research in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, examined the psychosocial impact of the UK Government's austerity measures on Catholic, Protestant and mixed low-income communities alongside collective community and cross-community responses to these social and structural harms.

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 an advocacy tool for political and social change.

Teaching interests

As a module team member on the new Masters in Crime and Global Justice (DD804), I have authored chapters on the politics of truth, state crimes and harms and transitional and global justice responses in the aftermath of genocide and mass atrocities. I am also teaching on a new Criminology Undergraduate module (DD105) and Deputy Chair of the level three module Personal Lives and Social Policy (DD305).

As a practitioner I enjoy developing and teaching participatory digital media and storytelling techniques with communities and action research projects. Drawing on my work with communities in Northern Ireland I taught a workshop at the 2016 HERC/ OU Post Graduate Research Methods Workshop on Action Research, Digital media and Storytelling.

Impact and engagement

My research and practice fuses academic research and public and community engagement. Currently I am working with colleagues from Open University Ireland (OUI) on their unique participatory oral history archive documenting the educational life journeys of OU students and staff in prisons such as Maze/Long Kesh, during the Northern Ireland conflict (1972-2000).  Our engagement work includes sharing knowledge from this Oral History Archive through teaching material, through public events and in future, via online platforms.

For Poverty and Social Exclusion UK (PSEUK)  I produced a series of short films with families across the UK on the lived experience of poverty. Working with low income communities in Northern Ireland we shared community research findings on the impact of austerity with policy makers and the wider public. This included using online digital 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 knowledge sharing as a core responsibility when undertaking academic research.


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:


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

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:

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:

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


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  (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) 

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