How best to influence society?

The Buddha taught that before an individual can wisely teach others, that individual must first train and purify the mind to a large degree, then that person could then wisely help to produce positive change in others.  There is also a teaching that saṃsāra, the round of rebirth, cannot be transformed to a state where there is no ignorance or suffering but instead, the path of liberation is to escape from saṃsāra all together.

Those who trained and purified the mind, such as the Buddha and the Noble Saṅgha, have caused positive change in individuals and society.  It is dangerous and unlikely that positive change can be produced from an impure and ignorant mind, human history is the story of suffering caused from the good intentions of unwise counselors. 

One must be careful and truly know oneself before trying to produce change in others.  History is filled with social and political workers who think they know what is best for others but act only to nurture their egoic consciousness because they neglect critical self-examination that is necessary for right action and right livelihood.