The objective of this study is to analyse various forms and definitions under which social enterprises operate in developed and developing countries, and the implications for public policies. The study is based on a literature review and a small number of interviews clustered around five country cases of Italy, Malaysia, South Korea, United Kingdom, and the United States, where social enterprise has attracted interest from the government. It also analyses how the government has operationalized its engagement with social enterprises. Through a comparative historical method, this study provides an understanding of the various legal forms available to and adopted by social enterprises, and the advantages and disadvantages of various approaches. Understanding the legal frameworks countries have put in place for social enterprise can help with assessing the merits and potential pitfalls of adopting legal definitions and forms for social enterprise.