Purpose: The aim of this paper is to propose an action-interaction-process framework to extend research on institutional entrepreneurship. The framework examines an actor's characteristics, interactions in an institutional context, and the process by which entrepreneurial action is accomplished. Design/methodology/approach: Via a sociohistorical archival method of narrative analysis, the action-interaction-process framework is applied to an exemplary case of institutional entrepreneurship - the case of James Meredith and the integrationist movement at the University of Mississippi in the 1960 s. Findings: The findings show that institutional entrepreneurs who maintain little power and influence over the institutional field must form strategic alliances to mobilize constituents and capitalize on the convergence of resources in the social setting. Practical implications: Through the process of collective action, institutional entrepreneurs can overcome resistance to change and displace inequitable institutional policies, while establishing new practices and norms. Originality/value: This research provides a stronger approach to examining institutional entrepreneurship and institutional entrepreneurs, the interaction between the institutional entrepreneur and the social context in which the individual operates, and the process by which inequitable institutionalized norms are reformed through collective action. This approach is useful to researchers examining institutional entrepreneurship or any area in which power disparity plays an important role. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.