The hidden heroes of the economy: third sector’s impact

In the realm of economic strategies and business support programs, there exists a quiet and often overlooked hero – the third sector.

In a compelling exploration of the underappreciated heroes of our economy, The Royal Society of Edinburgh unveils the significant but often overlooked contributions of third-sector organisations. Bridging core service gaps in healthcare, job training, and more, these organisations are hidden economic powerhouses yet frequently sidelined in economic strategies and programmes.

This event showcases the breadth and diversity of the third sector by providing a platform for these unsung heroes to share their stories, lessons, and innovative strategies. This event challenges traditional economic paradigms, aiming to redefine the third sector’s role and supporting a new era of recognition and celebration for these economic champions by sharing their stories.


A man wearing a suit and tie

Ray Perman FRSE, Private sector leader

Ray Perman is a former journalist who worked on newspapers including The Times, Scotsman, and Financial Times and was managing director of a magazine company and director of a management buyout of the Herald newspaper group. He was chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise from 1999-2004, the first chair of Social Investment Scotland and a board member of Scottish Enterprise. For eight years he chaired a policy group for the Department of Business. In 2010 Ray merged two scientific research organisations to form the James Hutton Institute, which he chaired until 2017, and was Director of the David Hume Institute between 2014 – 2017. In his spare time he plants trees, paints and was for ten years the bass player in a blues band.


A woman smiling for the camera

Julie Cameron, Associate Director of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mental Health Foundation

As an experienced public health researcher, and practitioner, Julie is committed to promoting human rights and improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable groups who experience inequalities, stigma and discrimination. Her interests lie in the links between policy, research and practice and using participatory action research methods. She enjoys going to the gym and spending time with her family and two daughters.

A man that is standing in the grass

Paul Cookson, Director, Green Aspirations Scotland

With qualifications in both gardening and arboriculture to his name, Paul is a skilled worker and trainer with twenty years’ hands-on experience across a range of sectors. As a founder and director of woodland groups, Paul combines his knowledge of rural practices with his interest in social wellbeing to help build stronger, more connected communities.

A man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

Frank Duffy, Founder Code Division

Frank previously worked for over 16 years in industry as a senior Java developer, database developer and Team Lead. He has also over 20 years’ experience working in schools, colleges and universities designing innovative digital and apprenticeship programmes. Frank set up Code Division as a social enterprise dedicated to combating digital inequality by designing and delivering digital skills programs. Since 2020 Code Division have supported more than 600 learners from underserved communities 81% of whom have been female. Code Division have just launched their latest 15-week Cyber Skills program aiming to support 16 refugees into digital job roles.

A man wearing a blue shirt

Frank McKillop, Director of Governance & Policy, Enable

Frank joined Enable in 2017, and has worked in public affairs, governance and communications roles in both executive and non-executive capacities in Scotland’s third sector for sixteen years. He supports the CEO and Board of Trustees with the charity’s governance, and with Enable’s external engagement and influencing work. Frank previously led policy and government relations in Scotland for the Association of British Credit Unions, and served for six years on the Board of Social Enterprise Scotland. A Politics graduate from the University of Glasgow and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Frank was previously Senior Secretary to a Scottish Member of Parliament, and is currently a non-executive director and Board Secretary of Glasgow Credit Union.