I think people in UX struggle with this more than most. Other design disciplines have long histories of people getting their hands dirty and making the world a better place. It’s know surprise that it’s always the Frog and IDEO work that gets talked about — at their core they are product designers and I’ve always felt that they hold Victor Papanek’s Design for the Real World pretty close to their hearts. Read it when I was 17 at art college starting out in graphic design, and I struggled throughout my career to find a way to channel that ethical stance. As a UX person I see where we are needed but as you pointed out often we aren’t invited to the table. However I think you nailed it in your last paragraph, it mustn’t be the preserve of the design elite and we in the design community need to stop seeing ourselves as heroes. It takes diverse groups of people with diverse skills, working continuously to affect change. The key is finding ways to be involved that support what you and your needs. For those starting out, take a read of Papanek (for some retro ethics) or for a contemporary view check out Leap Dialogues — a great book show caseing design careers that are about making the world a better place and often beyond the corporate machine.