Suryani (Sury) Dewa Ayu is a policy entrepreneur at Next100 with a background in urban design, planning, and anthropology. She is interested in building more welcoming and accessible public spaces that not only claim to represent values of democracy and equity but actively work to facilitate them. At Next100, Sury focuses on leveraging local and international learnings about civic design to help foster democratic practice and improve policy outcomes for underrepresented communities on a federal level.
Sury believes that, as a nation, it is imperative that we address the current and historical contexts that continue to exclude underrepresented communities from both the physical and virtual spaces where policy is built. Making room at the table is not enough. Sury is dedicated to examining how the table is designed so that when people take their seat, they take it as they are—whole and respected. She believes we do not need echo chambers. We need a People’s House.
Sury is the proud daughter of street vendors and small business owners who taught her the importance of community, justice, and tenacity—turning sidewalks and parking lots into spaces of belonging, joy, and hope. Guided by the love and support of her family, Sury is now a first-generation college graduate with a master’s degree in urban planning and design from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. While advocating for more safe and dignified affordable housing in her home city of Cambridge, Sury began work on understanding how the design of government buildings can act to include or exclude people from the decision-making process.
Sury previously worked as a civic designer for the City of Cambridge. While in local government, Sury developed and ran a pilot program started by Councilor E. Denise Simmons to hire and empower young civic designers from across the city to consult on how to make City Hall more welcoming for all. Sury also worked to develop policy recommendations on how Cambridge should address city-owned monuments and markers, particularly those inconsistent with the values of anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion—and recommendations on what to do for future funded projects. Alongside this advocacy work, Sury is helping develop the first Cambridge Museum of History and Culture and Cuffee Education Center, a museum dedicated to centering the narratives of the most historically marginalized people in Cambridge, providing job opportunities to story holders who are today being priced out of their homes.