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Understanding Washington

A CSIS Executive Education Course


CSIS is pleased to offer Understanding Washington Online, a real-time online course October 5-8, 2020. This format eliminates the need for travel, and features a substantial reduction in tuition versus our in-person course. We look forward to continuing to offer you high-quality professional development opportunities in this new format.
Course Dates                                            
October 5-8, 2020                         
$3,000 USD
Application Deadline
September 21, 2020
Applications for the October course will open in August. If you are interested in participating, please check back then.


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

During this real time, interactive course, 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 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 several "Washington insiders," who will share their extensive knowledge about navigating the city's policy and politics.


Comprehensive Seminars

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

    • How Different Institutions Operate – from Congress and the legislative process to the executive branch and the mechanics that drive the president and cabinet
    • How Governors’ Associations, Local, and NGO Interests Outside of Washington Surface and Interact with the Federal Policy Environment and the Media
    • How to Understand the Policy Ecosystem of Washington and Strategies for Engagement
    • The Distinct Roles of Think Tanks, Trade Associations, Advocacy Groups, and Lobbyists
    • The Role and Legal Function of Regulatory Agencies
In-Depth Case Studies

Select case studies will illustrate how the Washington ecosystem has worked in different ways to deal with tangible problems. These sessions will help participants understand the challenging dynamics of existing policies and institutions as well as what techniques are needed to succeed in advancing an organization’s objectives in high-profile situations.

Capstone Simulation

The capstone simulation will require participants to apply a combination of skills learned and 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 Apply

Applications for the October course will open in August. If you are interested in participating, please check back then.



Previous and current participants include representatives from:
Aramco Services Company, 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, Fujitsu Limited, General Dynamics, Government of Haiti, ITOCHU Corporation, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Japan Science & Technology Agency, The J.M. Smucker Company, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Mexican Evaluation Academy, Mitsubishi Corporation, NEC Corporation of America, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pure Hands, SK Hynix, Sojitz Corporation of America, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Thales Group Canada, Thales USA, Inc., Total S.A., UAE Executive Affairs Authority, U.S.-Angola Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia University


For more information, please contact Joel Martinez, Program Coordinator, at