Understanding Washington

Understanding Washington offers embassy, business, and nonprofit professionals the tools and knowledge necessary to better navigate the Washington policy ecosystem.

At a Glance

Course Date

March 20 – 23, 2023


CSIS Headquarters or Virtual



Registration Deadline

March 11, 2023


Understanding Washington offers embassy, business, and nonprofit professionals the tools and knowledge necessary to better navigate the Washington policy ecosystem.

Participants will learn how formal structures and informal networks interact to advance policy interests. The course will sharpen the skills necessary to manage crises, assess breaking developments, and engage both government and nongovernment actors.

Course instructors include CSIS experts with prior experience as senior government officials and government relations professionals. CSIS in-house expertise will be augmented by "Washington insiders" who will share their extensive knowledge about navigating the city's distinctive culture, policy dynamics and political constructs.


Comprehensive Seminars

The Understanding Washington curriculum is comprised of a series of seminars that address a range of topics, including:

  • The dispersal of power among the political branches
  • The legislative process and the mechanics that drive the executive branch agencies
  • How a wide range of interest groups in and outside of Washington work to shape the federal policy environment
  • The policy ecosystem of Washington and strategies for engagement
  • The role and function of regulatory agencies


In-Depth Case Studies

Case studies will be used to help illustrate how the Washington ecosystem deals with tangible problems. Small-group exercises will reveal the challenging dynamics embedded in policies and institutions as well as revealing techniques for advancing an organization’s objectives in various situations.

Capstone Simulation

An immersive simulation will require participants to apply skills developed throughout the program to a real-world situation. Participants will work in teams to analyze a fast-moving issue and develop and implement an effective response.



This course is open to anyone interested in developing a deeper understanding of how Washington, D.C. functions.

How to Register

The online application includes a short entry form, statement of interest, brief bio, and resume. Entries will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Please note that spaces are limited and the course may fill before the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be considered.


    Previous and current participants include representatives from:
    The Aerospace Corporation, Aramco Services Company, Chevron, Central Japan Railway Company, Department of Energy, Duke Energy, Edison International, Embassy of Australia, Embassy of Canada, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Embassy of Mexico, Embassy of New Zealand, Embassy of Norway, Embassy of the State of Qatar, Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, European Space Agency, Fujitsu Limited, General Dynamics, Government of Haiti, Hitachi, Ltd., The Internet Society, ITOCHU Corporation, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Japan Science & Technology Agency, The J.M. Smucker Company, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Mitsubishi Corporation, NASA, National Transportation Safety Board, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pfizer-Upjohn, Public Safety Canada, SK Hynix, U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Department of State, USAID, Total S.A.


    For more information, please contact Jessica Middleton, Learning and Development Coordinator, at jmiddleton@csis.org.

    Scott Miller
    Senior Mentor (Non-resident), Executive Education
    Emily Harding
    Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, International Security Program
    John Schaus
    Senior Fellow, International Security Program